Mental illness should cause neither fear nor shame. New ways of helping and treating those with mental illnesses are developing quickly. As mental health grows worse in today’s isolated culture that is obsessed with money and busy-ness, professionals seek innovative ways to treat people.
Technology is ubiquitous in modern societies, and it is playing a large role in developing patient treatment practices. One such use of technology is through online counseling. While this technique may seem to have only advantages, there are also distinct disadvantages to it. However, it may become part of the process of helping people.
Mental Health Professionals
Not so very long ago, psychiatrists compiled case histories, counseled patients, and prescribed medications. Today the roles of mental health professionals and their responsibilities are changing. The psychologist has gained an increasingly important role, often administering diagnostic tests and in-depth counseling services. Some also testify in court as character witnesses or even experts.
Several other specialist positions also have become common.
- Licensed counselors
- Social workers
- Therapeutic aids
- Behavioral specialists
- Therapeutic support staff
- Forensic psychologists
- Addictions specialists
The way that specialists provide therapy and counseling has traditionally been in an office. However, help is moving out of the office and onto the internet as e-therapy. The trend now is for more counseling and therapy sessions to be conducted online, and there are positive and negative aspects to this evolution
Advantages of Online Counseling
Accessible for Those with Physical or Mental Limitations
Distance counseling through the internet can be a great help for those who are housebound for various reasons, either through limited mobility or mental conditions such as agoraphobia, which renders venturing out into the hustle and bustle of daily life an experience of great stress and terror. This is a huge hurdle for those who may need counseling but cannot get to it. Helping such individuals get counseling services they need may be the biggest advantage of online therapy.
Access to Remote Areas
People who live in rural or remote areas have found attending or even finding counseling sessions challenging. There may not be any form of mental health services in their particular area. However, online counseling gives people access to treatment that they might not otherwise have.
Disadvantages of Online Counseling
Online Therapists Cannot Respond to Crisis Situations
Those who provide e-therapy are, by its nature, distant from clients, and it is difficult for them to help when a crisis situation develops. If a client experiences a personal tragedy or has suicidal thoughts, it may be difficult or impossible for distance therapists to respond.
Online Counseling is Not for Serious Psychiatric Illnesses
Serious psychiatric illnesses require close and direct treatment, and e-therapy simply cannot provide that. It also is not appropriate for those with complex and detailed problems. The scope of distance therapy is limited, and it is simply not right for those with serious psychiatric conditions and difficult, complicated situations.
Increased Concerns About Confidentiality
One of the major concerns with psychotherapy is keeping patient’s information private and protected. However, online counseling adds a layer of complexity to this matter. Confidentiality is just as important in online therapy as it is for face-to-face counseling sessions. However, since e-therapy occurs online, there are risks of information leaks and hacking that raise real worries about privacy.
The Changing Nature of Mental Health Services
The way mental health services are delivered is changing. One of the trends in mental health care is online counseling, or e-therapy. As with most developments, there are advantages. However, there also are distinct and real disadvantages. The world today, though, marches to the hum of technology, and professionals entering the mental health field march with it. There are strong programs now that prepare students for the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead in this field, one being the University of Southern California. For example, learn more about USC’s applied science program.
The bottom line is that those considering online counseling services need to educate themselves about the nature of this service, the risks involved and the potential benefits it may offer. They also need to learn details about any therapist with whom they are considering working. This way, they can make an informed decision about what will best promote their individual mental health.
Image by Pexels