Mental Health Monday: Online Counseling

Posted on May 11, 2020 by

In today’s blog post, we talk about online therapy services. We recognize that not everyone has access to reliable internet or technology in order to use these services. In our current crisis, it’s clear that access to the internet is a right, not just a luxury, as it provides invaluable resources for everyone. To learn more about the work people are doing to ensure internet accessibility, visit webfoundation.org.

We are not mental health professionals. If you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like anxiety or depression, or they are impacting your daily life, please reach out to professionals who can help you. If you need immediate help, use the National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255, which offers online chats as well. Jewish Community Services also offer help for people experiencing emotional crises.

We aim to provide some tips and guides to help those who are self-isolating and to connect with our JMM community. These ideas might not work for everyone, but we hope that by starting the conversation about mental health, we can inspire you to take a moment to breathe and reflect on what you need today to feel good.

~Talia Makowsky, JMM Visitor Services Coordinator

You can check out our past Mental Health Mondays posts here.


These days, for those of us who have access to reliable internet and technology, we are doing more and more in the digital world. This may include ordering groceries online, talking with friends over video chat, and completing work tasks from remote desktops. There are more services that are online and have been moving online long before we moved to social distance, including therapy and counseling.

Here, an unidentified woman sits at her desk on the phone. The advent of personal cell phones and internet access in the 90s gave tele-therapy a huge boost.

Long-distance therapy is not a new service, with a basis in the ’60s of people consulting professionals over the phone. However, with wider access to the internet and even video conferencing in the 90s, online therapy has grown exponentially, and providing therapy and counseling this way makes it more accessible. Those who are homebound can access the services without venturing out, the costs of the services go down, the hours to meet are more flexible, and those who live in rural areas don’t have to travel miles to the nearest therapist. This accessibility also helps with fighting the stigma of therapy, encouraging more people to take part in a service that everyone could benefit from. Additionally, clients have more choices in a therapist, allowing them to find someone they work well with and trust.

And in today’s world, talking to someone you can trust, who can help you deal with anxiety, depression, and more is especially important.

Finding an online therapist can be a little tricky. First of all, figure out what kind of service is right for you. Do you prefer being able to see someone when you talk to them, such as on a video chat? Or do you prefer talking over the phone, and not having to stress about what you look like on camera? Or, if both of those make you nervous, look for text-based services that you can try. You can also combine different services, depending on how you feel that day and the availability of your provider.

Alternatives to face-to-face therapy, such as text therapy, have been proven to be just as effective for helping people.

When looking for a therapist or counselor, make sure you take care to check their credentials. Counseling companies may advertise misleading services. Therapist and psychotherapist are not legally protected words, and so anyone may claim that they are a therapist, without proper licensing. When searching out an online service, ensure that the people you’re relying on are actually licensed, and licensed in your state. Health care providers are not to practice outside the state they’re licensed in, so be careful to double-check who you’re working with. Many services automatically create a list of providers who are licensed in your area, but it’s worth making sure you’re getting reliable services.

Having access to a therapist from home can make a huge difference in your mental health and stability.

As online therapy grows, there is a concern for privacy and safety. However, any company or counselor that is providing therapy services must adhere to HIPAA privacy standards. There should be some sort of process to verify the client’s and therapist’s identities, to ensure privacy. If the company that you’re considering doesn’t have some sort of process like this, maybe look elsewhere to ensure your safety.

Finally, when choosing an online service, make sure you check how or if it will be covered by your insurance. Some insurance companies may cover counseling or similar treatment in person but not online or over the phone. On the other hand, as face-to-face treatments are almost impossible at the moment, some insurance companies are making concessions or adding online and telephone services to support those who are unable to access the resources they need.

Do your research and advocate for yourself when working with your insurance company. If you regularly meet with a mental health professional, you deserve to continue your treatment, even if you can’t visit their office.


 

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