Recent years have seen a massive increase in the use of e-counseling, people would rather find a therapist online than actually go and see one in the flesh. Websites offering these services, along with guides on the topic, have cropped up all over the Internet as the industry flourishes.
Online counseling is not exactly a new thing; there have been self-help therapy groups on the Internet going back to the 1980’s, however in more recent years it has exploded. BetterHelp, one of the most popular online counseling websites, boasts a membership of more than four million users and 2,500 counselors since it was founded in 2013. Competitor Talkspace reports having half a million members after it began in 2012. The International Society for Mental Health Online has members in over 27 countries, and was created in 1997 to provide guidance for e-therapy.
It’s clear that more and more people are seeking this alternative method to counseling, especially in the last five years as e-counseling because more available to the masses.
It’s easy to understand why, there are several advantages to seeking online therapy as opposed to going down the traditional route: it’s more accessible for those living in isolated and rural areas, and it’s more affordable and convenient as you can schedule a session whenever you need it, either on your computer or on your phone. Also, going to see a counselor can often be an anxiety-provoking experience itself, e-counseling means that people can seek help from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
People also tend to find it easier to open up via a computer as opposed to in person, so it might be easier for someone to talk about their mental health problems when typing it as opposed to saying it. Millenials are the highest age group who use these online services, which makes sense as more and more young people tend to prefer using a e-mail as opposed to a telephone call, or a face-to-face setting.
Although there are also some downsides to this new method of therapy, namely that it cannot be very effective in a crisis situation. If someone is in crisis, perhaps having suicidal thoughts, it is much better for them to be with someone in person who can try and assist them as opposed to just speaking to someone through a computer or on Skype.
It also means the therapist is unable to pick up on any nonverbal cues, which one might be able to when in a physical face-to-face session such as body language, or tone of voice. Most online counseling is conducted via written sessions where the therapist only has the words that are written in front of them to go from.
Despite this, paid websites like BetterHelp or Talkspace, and free ones like 7 Cups are thriving as more and more people seek out e-counseling. For people who are going through mental health problems like depression and anxiety, it can be incredibly helpful to have access to a therapist at any time throughout the week, like Betterhelp advises you do. However it should be advised that people with serious mental health problems might not find e-counseling as helpful as face-to-face therapy. In cases where intensive, long-term programs of therapy are required it would be more beneficial to seek this the traditional way.
E-counseling continues to flourish, as a more affordable alternative to seeking therapy and is giving more people access to a resource they might not have otherwise been able to. As the industry thrives it normalizes accessing therapeutic help as more and more people reach out for support. This alternative method for counseling has become popular worldwide.