Online counselling isn't new and some counsellors and psychotherapists had been working this way before Covid-19 was even a thing. Face to face counselling had always been considered to be superior to online and the only method taught throughout our many years of experiential training. The pandemic forced us to embrace online. What was initially a short term way to continue to be able to support clients, has now turned into a preferred way of accessing therapy. What has facilitated this shift in mentality? Many factors, not least the fact that Covid has taught us the importance of slowing down and simplifying our lives. I thought I would share with you some of the benefits I believe online counselling has to offer versus traditional face to face, supported by feedback I have received from my clients:
People feel less inhibited and are prepared to share more - the screen creates a kind of safety barrier. Although you may still be looking at your therapist face on, it is not the same intensity as sat opposite someone in a room. You are unlikely to be revealing your whole body and you might be sat fiddling with something to decrease your anxiety. Both these things mean that you may feel less exposed and vulnerable and therefore able to open up more easily about what it is that has brought you to seek help.
You are in your own familiar environment - this can create a sense of security, reduce anxiety and make you feel more in control of the experience. The caveat to having counselling in your own space is that it can sometimes be difficult to transition safely back into normal life once the counselling session has ended; particularly if some heavy and painful emotions came up for you in the session. A good way of managing this is to go for a walk after your session, move to a different room and sit and listen to some music or exercise. If this isn't possible, choose a room that you don't spend a large amount of time in, that still gives you the privacy you require.
Easier to fit into your schedule - online counselling allows for greater flexibility. You don't have to travel or think about parking and you don't have to worry about finding childcare. This is a huge plus point for parents, especially in school holidays when sometimes face to face counselling may have been put on the back burner.
More choice - you are no longer restricted to finding someone who works in your local area. This is especially important if you are looking for someone who specialises in a particular field!
Greater Accessibility - there are many people who are unable to leave their home, whether that is down to mobility difficulties, social anxiety, caring for a loved one or they have young or dependent children. These groups of people may not previously have been able to access face to face counselling. Increased access to online counselling means that they no longer have to battle on feeling unsupported.
I have only highlighted the benefits and of course, online counselling won't be right for everyone, particularly those who lack safety or privacy in their own homes or for younger children, where therapy is more play-based. Thankfully for those people face to face counselling is starting to open up again. Most importantly, what we are left with is a greater choice in terms of how we seek support for our mental health and it is choice that ultimately leads to growth!