Counseling emerged as a profession in the late 1800s in response to societal shifts during an era of burgeoning social reforms. Over the next century, counseling evolved, and the need for mental health services became a necessity.
The newest evolution of counseling is virtual counseling. Because of the pandemic, teletherapy became a necessity for counselors and clients looking to continue services without the threat of risking exposure. A Verywell study found that 91% of virtual therapy clients were happy with their experience and would recommend teletherapy to others. Out of the participants surveyed, 89% believe society would be better if more people sought out therapy.
Additionally, 1 in 5 adults suffer from mental health issues, and 75% of those adults receiving mental services considered counseling to be helpful.
Online counseling is becoming extremely popular due to its ease and accessibility. Clients attribute the convenience of online services and their comfort level as the biggest motivators for choosing virtual therapy. We’ll explore more about online mental health services and their efficacy below.
What Is Virtual Counseling?
In a virtual counseling session, a client connects with a mental health professional using a video platform instead of traditional counseling sessions performed in person at an office.
Common Types of Virtual Counseling
There are many types of therapy offered in the teletherapy setting. Often, therapists specialize in various kinds of therapy to meet the needs of different clients. Here are some types of therapy you can experience in a virtual setting.
Marriage and Family Counseling
Many people need support and guidance in navigating their family dynamics and romantic relationships. A licensed marriage and family therapist helps clients address communication issues, set healthy boundaries, and learn better conflict resolution to support greater connection and self-awareness for individuals, couples, and families.
Guidance and Career Counseling
Guidance and career counseling isn’t just a high school or college resource. Many of us may find it helpful to have professional guidance when navigating educational and career choices at some point or another. Guidance and career counselors know what questions to ask to help us figure out our next moves and work towards long-term professional goals.
Rehabilitation counseling involves assisting people with disabilities or those in recovery from an accident that impacted their physical abilities. A dedicated rehabilitation counselor helps clients looking to return to the workplace, find a new career, or explore meaningful activities that support their physical and mental wellbeing.
Mental Health Counseling
Mental health counseling promotes a safe space for clients to discuss difficult personal experiences, explore new life skills, and create healthy coping strategies. Most of us have spent a significant portion of our lives using coping habits that may have worked at the moment but ultimately do not serve us in the long run.
There is no shame in accepting help and learning new tools that support better long-term health outcomes. Mental health counselors can introduce us to new techniques and guide us in making healthy life choices to better navigate the stresses of day-to-day life.
Substance Abuse Counseling
With substance addictions at an all-time high, there is a critical need for counselors who can treat addictions and help clients find new ways of coping and healing. Addiction counseling isn’t just about promoting sobriety; therapists can help clients transition to life after treatment, navigate relationships, manage stress, and address work-related issues. All of these factors contribute to greater recovery outcomes.
Clients struggling with addiction can find support in group meetings, substance abuse recovery programs, and sober living homes.
Education counseling focuses on helping young people cope with everyday stressors related to education, family, and society. A counselor can support clients by introducing new coping mechanisms that help them better prepare for the future. Most educational counseling for minors must be done in person; online therapy is available to clients over 18.
How does virtual counseling work?
Understanding the intake process
If you are using a website that offers a team of counselors, you might first fill out a questionnaire that will help determine which therapist would be your best fit. It is important to answer any intake forms honestly to get matched with a licensed mental health professional who can meet your needs and align with your personality.
During this stage, you can ask questions about insurance coverage, scheduling options, and what to expect throughout the intake process.
Finding a counselor
Finding an online counselor is not much different than finding an in-person provider. It’s good to research your potential therapist’s credentials and experience. Specifically, you’ll want to confirm that they are licensed to practice in your state and experienced in addressing your specific needs. You can start by searching through your insurance provider or googling online therapists.
Your first online therapy appointment
During your first online therapy appointment, your therapist will focus on establishing a supportive therapeutic environment and getting to know you as a client. They can determine your needs, work on building trust and rapport, and establish an initial scheduling plan.
While it might be difficult to break the ice at first, you will become more comfortable with your provider as time goes on. This is true regardless of if you receive services online or in person. However, if you notice that you’re not connecting with your therapist, don’t stress – you can communicate your needs and find a new therapist who will be a better fit.
It is essential to keep your scheduled appointments to continue to make progress with your mental health. Over time, you may notice that your needs evolve as you learn new skills and work through past and new experiences. You and your counselor can adjust your goals based on what is best for you, your situation, your insurance coverage, and your long-term goals.
Traditional vs. Online Therapy Services
If you’ve engaged in traditional in-office therapy, switching to an online therapist might prove less daunting than you would imagine. Although teletherapy is not in person, it is still face-to-face therapy on a screen instead. Therapists can still read your body language and your facial expressions as well as they would in person.
What is traditional counseling?
Typically, in traditional counseling, clients need to travel to an office, sit in a physical space outside of the comfort of their home, and chat with a licensed therapist or counselor.
[Read: How to Find a Treatment Center]
What is the difference between traditional and virtual counseling?
Clients who utilize virtual counseling in place of traditional in-person therapy report finding teletherapy more cost-effective. They save time and money by seeking mental health services from the comfort of their homes.
What makes online mental health services so effective?
Home can be our most secure space, and it makes sense to seek counseling wherever you feel most comfortable. Traveling to and from sessions can create added stress that contradicts your work in therapy. A secure environment can go a long way in helping to build up resiliency and promote better mental health.
Benefits of Virtual Counseling
You can connect with a licensed mental health professional anywhere with a strong internet connection. Get the support you need in just a few clicks.
Access online services any time of day without the hassle of missing work and school or making childcare arrangements. Sometimes, online therapists will offer phone or text communication in addition to or in place of face-to-face virtual therapy. Telehealth clients who access sessions on their schedule are more likely to stick with treatment and achieve better overall mental health outcomes.
Online therapy can be especially beneficial for clients who are concerned with privacy. You can protect your anonymity by accessing treatment online and avoid bumping into someone you might know at your therapist’s office.
One significant advantage of online therapy is that the cost is typically lower than in-person office visits. Therapists don’t have to worry about maintaining a physical building, insurance, or utilities, and those savings are often reflected in the cost for clients.
Comfort and Safety
With virtual therapy, you can address your mental health concerns from home or anywhere you feel comfortable. Even during the peak of the pandemic, teletherapy remained a safe option that allowed for no disruption in services.
How to find the best online counselor for you
You can find the best online counseling services in just a few clicks. Below are some suggestions for getting started with online mental health services.
What kind of help do you need?
To get the best online therapy, first, decide what you need in a therapist. Some therapists specialize in eating disorders, LGBTQIA-affirming counseling, teen counseling, couples therapy, substance use disorders, trauma therapy, dual diagnosis, and various mental health conditions. There is a therapist for every client, and you deserve to get the support you need to thrive.
What is your budget for therapy?
Does your insurance cover online therapy?
While many online platforms accept health insurance, some providers may prefer self-pay options. You can contact your insurance company to verify coverage and any out-of-pocket costs.
If you do not have insurance coverage, decide how much you can afford to allocate for therapy. Setting a budget will help you determine how frequently you can meet with an online therapist.
What are your preferred methods of communication?
It is important to determine how you’d like to communicate with your therapist. Some people prefer text messaging and limiting communication to their cell phones. Others prefer a larger screen, a laptop from home, or a private place at work. As time goes on, you may feel more comfortable with alternative forms of communication.
What is your schedule?
It can be challenging to carve out time for your mental health, but therapy is just as important as any other doctor’s appointment. Figure out where you can fit therapy into your schedule and protect that time you can prioritize your mental health.
How to Get the Most of Your Virtual Counseling
Know your goals
When you decide to start therapy, you might not know how to set realistic goals, and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s best to start small and work your way up to bigger goals. Try to identify how you’d like to feel, what you’d like to work on, and what kind of relationship you’d like to develop with a therapist.
It might take some time to find the best fit for online therapy services. There are various online therapy platforms, and it can be overwhelming to find the right fit. Once you narrow down your goals and what you’re looking for in a therapist, try making a general search and looking for reviews from existing clients.
It can be helpful to remember that most online platforms allow you to easily change counselors if you don’t find a good fit on the first try.
Be honest with your therapist
Honesty is an essential foundation for the client-therapist relationship. If you are trying to improve your mental health, you must be honest with yourself and your counselor. When you show up authentically, even in your most vulnerable moments, your therapist can meet you with the support you need.
Apply what you learn
Throughout your treatment, your therapist may assign homework; they might ask you to reflect or journal on a specific memory, have a tough conversation with yourself or a loved one, or practice mindfulness techniques in a stressful environment.
It may feel awkward to try something new, but homework is an opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in therapy. If you consistently show up and do the work, you will most certainly reap the benefits.
Limit distractions at home
Do not expect to be able to juggle four different things at once during a counseling session. Online therapy requires your undivided attention. Carve out the time and dedicate yourself entirely to your video sessions; the more focused you are, the more you’ll get from each session.
Give yourself some grace
While it’s great to set goals, you must also give yourself some grace. Healing is not a linear journey. It took a lot of time to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, and it will take just as much time to unlearn them. Be patient and commit to your journey – respect and trust the process.
Start your journey with the right virtual counseling program
After finding the right fit, it’s up to you to take the first step. There has never been better access to online mental health services.
All Points North offers a variety of virtual mental health programs to meet your needs. If you are looking for a supportive environment, our providers are here to give you the best care customized for your unique needs.
Don’t wait any longer. Learn more about APN’s teletherapy options and start your journey today!