Online therapy and counselling
What is online therapy?
Online therapy (including video, email and any other Internet messaging system) and telephone counselling take place remotely. You do not meet your therapist face-to-face. While face-to-face, or in-person, therapy may be the most commonly known form of psychotherapy and counselling, working with an online therapist offers many of the same benefits and arguably some extra flexibility.
Online therapy can be used for individuals, couples and families, and some therapists run online group therapy.
Online therapy may also be referred to as e-therapy, e-counselling, Internet therapy, cyber therapy, cyber counselling, remote therapy, telepsychology or web therapy.
Some benefits of online therapy
Choosing an online therapist may be more affordable, partly because you won't need to travel to your therapy session and partly because it doesn't require your therapist or counsellor to hire a room for sessions. While some therapists have their own consultations rooms, many hire spaces for their sessions. This also relates to the point below: flexibility.
Because online therapy is not so bound to a place, your therapist may be able to offer you more flexibility in terms of times or days than they would be able to for in-person therapy.
If for any reason it's difficult for you to leave the house, whether that relates to illness, disability, anxiety, or just personal preference, choosing an online counsellor means you can have counselling from the comfort of your own home.
Especially if you live in a rural area, you may not have many therapists local to you full stop, let alone those that you feel are right for your needs. Choosing an online counsellor or therapist means that you can work with someone wherever they are. This might be especially important if you have a specific set of needs or concerns that you would like to talk about.
How does online counselling work?
With video therapy and telephone counselling there will likely be a cost per session and, much like in-person therapy, these sessions are usually 50 minutes long for individual therapy and happen once a week. There is of course some variation here depending on you and your therapist, but this is the most usual arrangement. Many therapists use Zoom, Vsee and Skype to conduct video therapy.
With email or text therapy, a fee per exchange will be arranged between you and your therapist. Email therapy can be beneficial for those who either find it easier, or perhaps even find it therapeutic, to write about their experience and feelings rather than talking.
For any form of online therapy or counselling, you don't need to be a tech genius. Your therapist or counsellor will guide you through the process of setting up for your online session.
What about the different types of therapy?
Working with an online counsellor or therapist doesn't mean you won't have access to a range of different therapy types you might be interested in. You can still look for CBT online, or couples counselling online, for example.
There are some types of therapy that may be easier to do face-to-face, like play therapy, EMDR or body psychotherapy – but many therapists offer a range of services online and you can discuss the potential for doing so with your chosen professional.
Things to look for in an online therapist
As with any form of therapy, the most important factor in terms of successful therapeutic outcomes is the relationship you have with your therapist. So whether you are seeing them in-person or online, it's important you feel comfortable, that you can trust them, and that they understand you.
We recommend checking that any therapist or counsellor you are interested in is registered with a reputable professional body, such as the BACP, UKCP, BPS or BPC. Being members of such associations means they are qualified, insured, and abide by a code of ethics. On welldoing.org, we verify each of our members once a year to make sure they are still members of their chosen professional associations.
Some therapists have undergone specific training in delivering online therapy. Most counsellors and therapists who qualify nowadays will have studied online therapy as part of their main training, as naturally technology is such a big part of our daily lives now. Others may have done further training. Therapists and counsellors usually list their qualifications and trainings on their directory profiles.
How do I prepare for an online therapy session?
- Try your best to find a space in which you won't be disturbed for the duration of your appointment
- Check your Internet connection and laptop or phone battery before starting the session
- Close other Internet-draining apps or pages on your device
- Consider wearing headphones as this may give you a sense of further privacy
- Your therapist will likely take the lead on this, but if not ask what the backup plan is if the Internet should drop out or should you encounter any other technical issues
- Have a glass of water at hand and anything else you might need to be comfortable
- Try and factor in some time after the session to absorb what has just happened, tend to any difficult feelings or carry out some self-care if needed, rather than jumping straight back into the rest of your day
- If you find you have any problems or concerns with the means of therapy delivery (phone, laptop etc.) or with the therapy in general, raise these with your counsellor or therapist
How to find an online therapist
You can find an online counsellor or therapist in various ways on welldoing.org. You will find these options here.
The first is using the Quick Search – in this case, you can choose a type of therapy from the dropdown menu if you have one in mind, and then leave the location box blank to be taken to online therapists.
The second, more detailed, option is to use our Questionnaire. You can filter your results based on various factors, including therapist gender, your areas of concern (there are 50+ to choose from, and you can pick up to three to find the best match), and – if relevant to your search – your therapist's religion and other identity factors. Using the questionnaire is the right route if you would like to find, for example, relationship counselling online, or online therapy for teenagers, as you'll be able to filter by who is coming to therapy, too.
The final option is to make use of our Personalised Matching Service. Here you fill out a more detailed assessment form, which is anonymously reviewed by a mental health professional. We then find a therapist who matches your needs, availability and budget for you. There is a fee of £48 for this service.
Last updated 27 April 2020