What is E-Counseling?
E-counseling is the revolutionary method of connecting certified mental health professionals and people seeking treatment via the Internet. With tens of millions of people all around the world in need of therapy services, it was only a matter of time before advances in video conferencing and chat technologies disrupted the therapy industry, offering modern-day versions of counseling services that are more convenient and affordable.
Since its inception around 2011-2012, there have been some who have questioned its effectiveness. However, as researchers have had time to conduct their examinations over the last several years, e-counseling as a whole has proven to be an extremely effective treatment option. 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.
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’ service. 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, the demand for a new form of therapy surged. 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, e-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 providers on the market, and dozens of other smaller services. As demand continues to grow, we can expect to see more and more of these e-counseling companies appear.
Even as demand increases and millions of people have signed up for e-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 e-counseling can replace traditional therapy. Unfortunately, there is no answer to this as effectiveness varies by individual. However, research has shown that e-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, would 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 e-counseling is an effective method of treatment for numerous mental health disorders, and current research backs up this claim.
While customers are attracted to E-counseling services for different reasons, a few benefits standout as being primarily responsible for the increased popularity of this category.
For starters, there is an unfortunate stigma associated with therapy. Many people report feeling embarrassed for having to use therapy services to help them work through life’s issues rather than being able to handle them on their own. While taking advantage of the life-altering benefits of receiving therapy is becoming more mainstream, we as a society still have a long way to go before people becoming fully comfortable letting their network of friends know they are seeing a therapist without fear of being judged. Until that day comes, e-counseling services allow patients to receive therapy with greater discretion than in-person therapy since it can be done in a quiet room at home or at the office during lunch break.
With E-counseling, people can engage in therapy at a much higher frequency than traditional therapy, especially with many of the -counseling services providing unlimited communication with their therapist.
Moreover, licensed mental health therapists are not available in many areas. This means that many people who suffer from a mental health disorders 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. Finding the time for an in-office therapy appointment is becoming more and more of a challenge in our fast-paced lives, especially when many 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. Patients 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. With e-counseling, many providers allow you to filter through therapists by language. This eliminates the cultural and lingual concerns that many people have experienced.
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. 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.