• The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live, work, and perhaps how we might see our therapist

  • Even in usual times, online counselling can be highly effective

  • If you are looking to talk to an online therapist, start your search here

The idea of sitting down in your dining room, turning on your computer and beginning a counselling relationship with someone via the internet, whom you’ll most likely never meet, can seem very daunting to many of us (and possibly just plain weird!). Then again, so can walking into a stranger’s office and telling them your deepest, darkest secrets...face to face.

Counselling and other talking therapies have thankfully gained more exposure in recent years due to increased awareness around mental health and media campaigns to reduce the stigma around mental health problems. That said, telling your work colleagues that you’re seeing a counsellor still isn’t as readily accepted as it may be in the more therapy-friendly America.

If you’re on the welldoing.org site it’s most likely because you appreciate, or at least are open to the possibility, that talking to someone objective, who is paid to listen to you and not have an opinion on your choices, may give you the mental space and clarity you need to feel better about yourself and what may be going on in your life. So how does online counselling compare to face to face?

Online counselling became a reality when our internet connections got strong enough to hold video calls. Before that, counsellors sometimes used telephone or even email to keep in touch and support clients who were unable to travel to an office or meeting room for therapy. Many people ask me whether online (video chat) counselling is as effective as face to face counselling. Since I do both, I have a pretty objective view on it and my answer is yes, online counselling can be just as effective and, at times, more effective, than face-to-face counselling.

Why is online counselling effective?

If you’re in two minds about whether to look at online or face to face counselling, it’s important to recognise that, as with all therapy and therapists, one size definitely does not fit all. Online therapy works really well when you have a decent internet connection (the screen breaking up makes it really tough to have a good ‘flow’ in the conversation), and when you’re able to be alone for the session. 

There are loads of benefits to having therapy online, it can be great not to have to travel to see your counsellor or therapist; not worry about getting stuck in traffic or finding a parking space, and for those with other commitments such as childcare, there’s less time out to worry about.

Online therapy is also great for people who travel for work or live overseas but want to work with a particular counsellor, or if there are no counsellors you resonate with locally. If you’re constantly in different places it can be great to know that you can have the consistency of seeing your counsellor once a week, no matter where you are or what time zone you’re in. Unless you want to hire a full time therapist to travel with you, online therapy is often the only option for frequent travellers, and having that consistency can be hugely beneficial.

With all that being said, there are some people who just prefer the face to face connection, or who find that having to go somewhere different shifts the energy for them in a way that doing therapy ‘at home’ just doesn’t. It’s not for everyone and doesn’t have to be. Most online therapists will offer some form of free consultation to see how you get on and this is the time to see how comfortable you feel. It may well feel a little weird anyway as you’re talking to a stranger, but try to see the person behind the screen, as that’s who you’ll be working with. If the therapist-client connection isn’t there, the therapy really won’t be nearly as effective, regardless of the medium.

Overall, don’t let the idea of working online put you off. The work is no different to the work you’d do in person, and it’s no more, or less challenging. Look for a person, a human being, who you resonate with and who you think could help you, and put that before anything else. The internet has given us more choice, to choose who we want to work with to help us through life’s challenges, regardless of geographic location, and that’s a gift. If the willingness and connection is there, it will most certainly be felt through the fibres of ethernet cable.

Further reading

Identity and character work in therapy

Before therapy I was selfish

Which type of therapy is right for me?

Should I tell people I'm in therapy?