Over the past several years, online counseling has become more accepted in the mainstream counseling community. Nevertheless, accepted does not necessarily translate to effectively used. Let’s face it, some people just need to have the personal contact of being in a face-2-face session. However, the vast majority of people are quite comfortable with video, phone or text chat.
Some of the benefits of online counseling for anxiety, depression, PTSD and addictions include:
- Being able to connect with experts anywhere in the world
- Access to services at the most convenient time for you (8pm on the East coast is 3 pm–still during normal business hours– on the West)
- Reduced costs in terms of travel time, child care and waiting. Instead of sitting in an uncomfortable waiting room, you can be watching ESPN in your living room. This is especially important in areas like Atlanta, Arlington, Alexandria and Washington DC
- Greater anonymity. Some people do not want others to see them going in to see a counselor–for any reason. Online counseling allows people to seek services for things like depression, anxiety and addictions in the privacy of their own home.
- People with PTSD need to have a place they feel safe. Practicing some of the exposure therapy techniques with an online counselor in the comfort of their own homes can help reduce their level of hypervigilence.
- Does Fido make you feel more at ease? Well, online counseling also enables you to have him in your lap.
What are some of the considerations for online counseling for people with depression, anxiety, addictions or PTSD?
- Unless your issues are mild or moderate, many therapists will want to be able to chat with you via video such as Skype. This allows us to better assess your mental status and level of danger to yourself or others. In the case of addictions, video chat also allows the therapist to assess whether you are clean and sober.
- For online video counseling you will need to have at least DSL internet.
- If you select online counseling via text chat, it is important that you are able to type
What to expect at Gainesville-NOVA Counseling
- Your first visit will consist of an intake assessment. Your therapist will ask you a variety of questions to learn about who you are and what you hope to get out of counseling. She will probably give you three assignments.
- Your first task will be to write an autobiography. This will assist your counselor in understanding how you grew into the person you are today, when the problem started and what things make the problem worse and what things make it better. You will use a secure email account provided to you to email this to your counselor.
- Your second task will be to keep a log of the problem (i.e. how many anger outbursts, how often you have flashbacks, on a scale from 1-5 what your average daily anxiety or depression rating was.
- Pick on area of health to start working on: Getting sufficient, quality sleep; exercising, eating better or drinking more water.
- During your second online counseling session, you and the counselor will review your autobiography, your problem log and the progress you have made in improving your health. Together you will develop a service plan to guide the online counseling process. This plan will use the knowledge-skills and abilities format. Using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) you will be guided to learn more about the problem in general and specifically what triggers or improves your problem. Then you will identify skills that you already have which can help you deal with the problem, and enhance those. Finally, your counselor will suggest some new skills to help you cope with or alleviate the problem.
- Subsequent online counseling sessions will help you systematically go through the service plan, and make adjustments to it as necessary.
- Our goal is to help you learn how to identify the root issues of your problems, increase your motivation to deal with them and use your current strengths and skills to achieve your highest quality of life.
In short, does online counseling for anxiety, addictions, depression or PTSD work? It works if you work it. If you just show up and expect the therapist to fix it for you, then I would not expect to see significant improvement. If you treat counseling as a learning experience, to learn more about yourself and how people in general “tick,” then, yes, online counseling will probably work quite well.