How Online Counseling Works

During a time of social distancing, where many of us are confined to our homes, in-person counseling is less accessible than ever. This is a problem, as it’s not like mental illness has gone away in the time of COVID-19. In fact, with so many people losing their jobs and being separated from their friends and family, mental health challenges are more rampant than ever.

Fortunately, online counseling is the perfect way to still get support from licensed therapists while staying properly distanced.

As vulnerable a process as therapy can be, however, online counseling may seem foreign to people, especially to those unfamiliar with or untrusting of the internet.

To dispel this unfamiliarity and uncertainty, let’s take a look below to understand just how online counseling works.

What Can Online Counseling Help With?

Online counseling is for anyone dealing with a mental health issue or condition that could benefit from talk therapy. Specifically, you can often find counseling for issues or conditions relating to:

Some online therapy services can also aid in the prescription of medicine, as long as they offer psychiatrists in addition to psychologists (this is usually indicated obviously somewhere on the site).

You can also find online services that offer specialized therapy for couples, LGBTQ people, teens, and other communities.

What Do You Need to Use Online Counseling?

This is where online counseling really shines, as you often only need a video- and audio-capable device (like your smartphone, laptop, or tablet) and access to the internet.

With just these two things, you can connect to most online therapy services. Beyond this, you may, in some cases, be asked to download an app to be able to access an online therapy service.

From Where Can I Access Online Counseling?

The beauty of going virtual is that unlike in-person counseling, which requires you to go to a physical location, you can access online therapy from anywhere with an internet connection.

For most people, this means being able to receive therapy from the comfort of their own home. But you can just as conveniently receive therapy while traveling — even outside the country in many cases — as long as you have access to the internet.

Is Online Counseling Safe?

In addition to verifying the qualifications of their counselors, reputable online therapy services also employ numerous safety and privacy measures.

These measures take the form of not requiring you to use your real name, everything you tell your therapist being protected by strict federal and state laws, end-to-end encryption of all communication between you and your therapist, and the ability to automatically delete all of your messages if you so wish.

What Does Online Counseling Look Like?

Different services offer different features, but the primary feature of most online counseling services is talk therapy.

Whether through video calls or just audio, talk therapy looks like and serves the same purpose as a regular, in-person session with a therapist, but simply takes place online with you talking 1-on-1 with a therapist about the issues troubling you.

In addition to these video/audio sessions, you can also often send text messages to your therapists whenever you please, who will then respond to your texts 1 or 2 times a day. Being able to text your therapist new questions and concerns as they come up adds an extra element to your therapy that isn’t present in traditional, in-person therapy.

How Do You Sign Up for Online Counseling?

In some cases, you can sign up for an online counseling service and be speaking with a therapist in a matter of hours.

This is because all that is often required to sign up for these services is your contact information, some basic personal information (gender, age, etc.), as well as a description of the types of issues you need help with.

You’re either asked to describe what you need help with through an online form, or you’ll be required to chat with an actual counselor as part of the signup process to describe what you need help with.

After describing your needs, you’ll either be automatically matched with a relevant therapist suited to you, or you’ll be shown options of relevant therapists, from which you can choose the best therapist as you see fit. If you don’t feel like your original therapist is a good fit, most providers make it easy to try someone else.

In a time when many people are feeling more isolated than ever — and experiencing the mental health challenges that go along with it — online therapy provides a safe and comfortable way to connect with a professional who can help.