What is E-Counseling?
E-counseling, otherwise known as online counseling, online therapy, and e-therapy, is the latest method of connecting certified mental health professionals and people seeking treatment via the Internet. With over 90 million US residents suffering from some form of mental health disorder and in conjunction with the rise of technology, it was only a matter of time until online counseling became available to the public.
Since its inception around 2011-2012, there have been some who have questioned its effectiveness. However, as researchers have had time to conduct their examination over the last several years, e-counseling has proven to be an extremely effective tool in assisting people live better. People suffering from stress, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and more have received treatment via e-counseling, with millions of people claiming to be living happier, healthier lives as a result.
E-Counseling: A Brief History
When the Internet first launched in the early 90s, the interest in online therapeutic communication was actually quite large. Self-help groups, in addition to online chat rooms, were very popular. While part of the technology was there (desktop and email usage), the Internet was still very new while therapy was instilled in people as a set ‘in-office’ industry. Both the Internet and traditional therapy weren’t yet ripe for change.
Seemingly in a flash, it all changed. With the rise of smartphone dependency, in addition to people constantly being in an ‘on-the-go’ mentality, the demand for a new form of therapy surged. Moreover, as social networking carved out a sizable chunk of relevance in people’s lives, e-counseling wasn’t a far-fetched idea. With that, e-counseling took off. E-counseling has received massive exposure. From the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Huffington Post, and virtually all major media outlets, online counseling has been thrust into the spotlight.
It is no surprise that people now have a range of e-counseling services to choose from. There are currently a handful of major online counseling providers on the market, and dozens of other smaller services. As demand continues to grow in this market, people looking to live better can expect to see more of these professional e-counseling services take form.
Online Counseling Effectiveness
Even as demand increases and millions of people have signed up for online counseling, the issue of efficacy has been raised over the last several years. The primary point of contention for many of the naysayers is if online counseling can replace traditional therapy. Unfortunately, there is no answer to this as effectiveness varies by individual. However, research has shown that online counseling can be as effective as face-to-face therapy for countless mental health disorders, including but not limited to the aforementioned stress, depression, and anxiety. On the other hand, more severe and complex circumstances, such as suicidal feelings or psychotic behavior, might be better aided by traditional therapy, though even with this more research is required. The bottom line is that the widely accepted opinion is that online counseling is an effective method of treatment for numerous mental health disorders, and current research backs up this claim.
The rapid growth of the e-counseling industry would be considered shocking to many. However, if we were to look at it from a macro-level and really take a step back, a clearer picture takes shape. There are so many benefits of using an e-counseling service that makes many people wonder: why would anyone go to traditional psychotherapy anymore?
For starters, there is an unfortunate stigma associated with therapy. This has been prevalent essentially since therapy’s beginning. There is no pin-point statistic, but there are many people who end up canceling their therapy sessions precisely as a result of this stigma. A large portion of these people end up canceling because they feel discomfort, embarrassment or a lack of privacy. On the other hand, research has shown that people feel more at ease and less intimidated with e-counseling. And this is something that plays into e-counseling’s effectiveness, as people are more likely to be open and honest about their issues when they are more relaxed.
With e-counseling, people can engage in therapy at a much higher ‘session rate’ than traditional therapy, especially with many of the e-counseling services providing unlimited communication with their therapist.
Moreover, here’s a little known fact. Licensed mental health therapists do not reside or practice in more than 55% of United States districts. This means that many people who suffer from a mental health disorder either have to travel some ways to receive help or simply don’t have access at all. E-counseling eliminates this issue entirely.
Another benefit of e-counseling, and possibly one that is considered the biggest benefit of all, is convenience. With everyone staring down at their smartphones all day long, in addition to constantly moving around throughout the day, finding the time for an in-office therapy appointment is practically impossible, especially when people’s mental health takes a backseat in their list of priorities. This is nullified with e-counseling. Simply open the chat with your therapist at a time that’s convenient for you, without having to travel. Also, people can engage with their therapist of choice through live chat, email and even video conferencing, all from the comfort of their desktop or mobile device, wherever they are.
Furthermore, language is a substantial barrier for a lot of people. In 2013, one in five people spoke a language other than English at home. Of these individuals, it is safe to assume that many of these people don’t fully grasp the English language. Finding a therapist in your state who speaks your native language was outrageously hard. With e-counseling, you can now filter through therapists by language. This eliminates the cultural and lingual concerns that many people had.
Additionally, it is a well-known fact that some people avoid traditional therapy due to exorbitant session fees. Some sessions can cost as much as $250 per hour, if not more. By contrast, some e-counseling services offer unlimited monthly therapy for as low as $25 per week. Also, some e-counseling services accept health insurance, thereby lowering your out of pocket cost.