Particularly within the last decade, online counselling has been established as a method offered by therapists more frequently. A development that can be regarded as beneficial, because now people can get help regardless of their location. All that is needed is a computer with a stable Internet connection and a communication software like Skype, which is provided free for downloading.
What Does the Research Say About Online Counselling?
Research studies found online counselling to work as well as traditional face-to-face counselling. Actually, in some cases, online counselling shows even better results than traditional counselling. For instance, the effectiveness of online counselling at treating depression has been found equally effective to offline counselling, and it was more effective than offline counselling at continuously reducing depression-related symptoms in the three months after the initial treatment (more information can be found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23886401.
A case study conducted in Canada, in which 495 clients were randomly assigned to be examined face-to-face (N=254) or by online counselling (N=241), also found counselling and follow-up delivered online as resulting in the same therapeutic success that was achieved by traditional face-to-face counselling. However, the study does not indicate that online counselling per se is suitable for e.g. all forms of psychotherapy (more information can be found here: http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/ps.2007.58.6.836).
How I Work
In my work as a counsellor and psychotherapist I combine traditional therapist skills with online technology. Online counselling can be a good solution for people who are too busy to participate in personal counselling sessions, or for those who live in rural and geographically isolated regions. But there is also another effect contributing immensely to the acceptance and application of online counselling, which is called the “Online Disinhibition Effect”. The online disinhibition effect states that people are generally more willing to self-disclose online than person to person. A behaviour associated with different factors like anonymity, invisibility and minimization of authority. The result that may come along with such behaviour is a quicker investigation of underlying problems and, in turn, a first step to emotional healing.
Online counselling can be as effective as traditional face-to-face counselling. Both forms require extensive client and counsellor engagement. In my experience, clients often respond better in online counselling sessions than in face-to-face counselling. In online counselling, it seems easier for them to open inwardly and disclose themselves, which is essential in the process of psychotherapy.