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In an age where we are doing almost everything online (buy clothes, watch movies, meet people) we are seeing an increase of Online Counseling options. There are many reasons to opt for Online Counseling. You may be too busy to set up and travel to see your Counselor. You may not have access to your Counselor due to transportation, or perhaps there are limited Counselors in your area. You may prefer asynchronous services where you are not communicating in real-time with your Counselor, but according to your schedule.
Clearly there are plenty of good reasons to want to utilize Online Counseling. That being said, it is important to determine whether or not Online Counseling is appropriate to fit your needs. A general rule of thumb is that Online Counseling services are not appropriate if you are dealing with a serious, chronic mental illness, or if safety is an issue. Certainly, serious issues can be addressed quite well with the right Online Counselor but not at times when the face-to-face relationship is required to ensure your or others’ safety or your ongoing health and well-being in light of serious illness.
Perhaps you are looking for a place to vent about your kids, your job, or your partner. Perhaps you need to talk through your options regarding your career. Maybe you are looking for stress management strategies or ways to manage your anxiety and panic. Perhaps you are out of the country experiencing some difficulties and you would like to talk to someone who shares your cultural background. Maybe you have lost something or someone dear to you and you would like to work through your feelings and plan for your future. Those are all good examples of issues that might be well served with Online Counseling.
The biggest key to successful Online Counseling is finding a Mental Health Professional who can first help determine if Online Counseling is appropriate for your needs. S/he can then work with your to develop a plan of action that will help you reach your goals for counseling. Make sure the online therapist you choose is a Licensed or Certified Mental Health Professional. Many of the Online Counseling sites out there are run by business people who are web-savvy and who would like to help. Unfortunately they are not trained to provide counseling services nor are they trained to make recommendations for you when you are in need of a different or higher level of care than they can provide.
Once you have found the Professional with whom you would like to work, determine whether s/he offers the modality of treatment that works best for you. Email, instant messaging, web cam, and phone options are out there but not offered by everyone. Realize that security (confidentiality) is limited by the online environment. Even the best Counselor cannot guarantee security above and beyond the limitations inherent on the web.
So… take the time to find the right Counselor and the right mode of service, then check out Online Counseling for yourself and enjoy the benefits of moving into the age of cyberspace for your mental health counseling needs.