Virtual Counseling & COVID-19 What, Why, and How?

During these uncertain times of social distancing due to the impact of COVID-19, it’s only natural for people to be feeling stressed or anxious. However, self-isolation measures mean that it is difficult for them to access mental health care services through traditional means. Individuals seeking support now need to look for alternative methods – this is where virtual counseling comes in.

Virtual counseling, otherwise known as teletherapy or e-therapy, is a service offered for remote support using cellphones and computers. The session is conducted using real-time audio and video over a platform such as facetime, skype, or zoom. It is often in much the same way as a traditional face-to-face one would be, just from the comfort of the client’s own home.

This type of online therapy is by no means a new idea. Over the past decade, people have increasingly been taking advantage of the flexibility it offers them. Yet the last couple of months have, from necessity, seen a dramatic increase in both the amount and type of services being offered and the number of people utilizing them.

While some might be concerned that this form of therapy may not be as effective as in-person treatments, research does consistently indicate that this is, in fact, not the case. Studies show that virtual counseling can be incredibly useful for supporting those with anxiety or depression, among other things. Furthermore, in addition to ease of accessibility, virtual counseling offers certain other benefits over traditional methods:

 Convenience.

Conducting appointments online allows for a greater amount of flexibility with timing than would otherwise be possible. Moreover, not having to commute to a specific location means that some individuals now have access to a more extensive selection of therapists or services than they would usually have if, for example, they live remotely.

Anonymity

Accessing online services has the crucial benefit of protecting those who may feel uncomfortable with having people know that they are seeking therapy, or with coming into contact with people in a waiting room. Furthermore, the absence of direct face-to-face contact may encourage more openness and honesty in those who feel more confident about sharing things anonymously. This can increase the overall usefulness of the sessions.

Versatility

Utilizing the tools available in online platforms allows for more varied ways of communication between therapist and client. This can be of particular benefit to those who struggle to express themselves verbally, or those who can find themselves distracted by non-verbal cues.

Alongside these key advantages, virtual counseling also faces some unique challenges:

Lack of Physical Presence

Some people may find it difficult to develop the same time of necessary connection with their therapist if they are not in the same room as them. This could mean that they feel less comfortable talking through their concerns and less comforted when they do.

Technology Issues

Relying on phones of computers are a means of communication makes people vulnerable to issues with their device or their internet connection. Hardware, software, or connection failures could have a detrimental impact on the quality of a counseling exchange.

Overall, in these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever for people to be taking care of their mental health. Virtual counseling is an effective alternative to the regular kind and is likely to be extremely beneficial for many people who are dealing with stress and anxiety.

While there may be some initial barriers to be overcome when adapting to using technology for an activity that is more regularly done face-to-face, the advantages of utilizing this method of support can be seen to far outweigh these.

Main Street Counseling Group is now offering all co-parenting classes and individual sessions via phone or through FaceTime or Zoom platforms.

References

  • Andrews, G., Basu, A., Cuijpers, P., Craske, M. G., McEvoy, P., English, C. L., & Newby, J. M. (2018). Computer therapy for the anxiety and depression disorders is effective, acceptable and practical health care: An updated meta-analysis. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 55, 70–78.
  • Nordgren, L. B., Hedman, E., Etienne, J., Bodin, J., Kadowaki, Å., Eriksson, S., … Carlbring, P. (2014). Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of individually tailored Internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety disorders in a primary care population: A randomized controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 59, 1–11.
  • Raman, S. (2020, March 19). Mental health care adapts to telehealth because of COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.rollcall.com/2020/03/19/mental-health-care-adapts-to-telehealth-due-to-covid-19/
  • Wagner, B., Horn, A. B., & Maercker, A. (2014). Internet-based versus face-to-face cognitive-behavioral intervention for depression: A randomized controlled non-inferiority trial. Journal of Affective Disorders, 152-154, 113–121