Free Online Therapy May Be a Deal Too Good to Pass Up

The old saying "You get what you pay for" is very rarely complimentary but with free online therapy you may actually be getting more.

Free online therapy is a relatively new innovation that takes advantage of the growth of the online community and the convenience of online services. While not constructed to take the place of traditional therapy, we here at feel that free online therapy may be a convenient and economical way to begin to address some of the needs of a potential therapy patient.

Free online therapy is an outgrowth of paid online counseling, which itself is a new method of traditional therapy. Counseling services have been around for centuries, dating back to the ancient Greeks, although at that time many of the emotional and mental problems were thought to be related to bad spirits. It wasn't until the 15th century that doctors began to approach therapy from a purely scientific and psychological vantage point. At that point, a few doctors began to espouse the belief that talking to a patient was one of the keys to addressing their emotional problems. Late, Sigmund Freud pioneered the idea of having patients discuss their dreams as a way to understand and address their problems.

In the 1950s, behavior therapy emerged in the U.S. and focused on exploring the patient's thoughts and emotions through words, drawings, etc. This interactive, face-to-face brand of therapy has been the standard since then. Now, enter online therapy.

Taking advantage of the abundance of computers in the home and office, as well as the ease of entering the online community, online therapy has emerged as a viable new option in counseling. With online therapy, doctors can reach many more patients than before and patients can chose from doctors around the country before finding one that is qualified to address their specific concerns.

For example, a patient in a rural community with limited access to counseling offices can have some of their questions answered in an online session with a doctor even though they are thousands of miles apart. Or a doctor can assess a patient's emotional problems and recommend a traditional doctor in their area who can address their specific needs.

Online therapy can also help patients who suffer from social problems that prevent them from effectively discussing their problems face to face. Patients, who suffer from, say, fear of crowds or enclosed spaces can receive treatment that can help them overcome these fears without thrusting them into a scenario that requires them to confront their fears before even being treated.

In addition, most online therapy sessions are considerably lower in cost than traditional therapy sessions, though it is important to note that most online therapy treatments do not last as long as traditional therapy treatments. Online therapy treatments may only span duration of months or weeks before a patient is required to utilize more traditional therapy methods to address problems that persist.

With free online therapy, patients can get general answers to their problems and get help in discovering ways to address those problems further. Free online therapy websites make a point of explaining that it is not a substitute for licensed therapy (paid online therapy, however, is frequently run by licensed therapy professionals). Free online therapy often serves as a "pre-treatment" method whereby a patient can assess the level of treatment they require.

Free online therapy may be offered by an individual, a private group of doctors or an organization. The Mental Health Foundation in the UK, for instance, recently offered two months of free online therapy to residents of that country. Other websites may serve as a portal for other free online therapy websites.

With a typical free online therapy website, a potential patient can log on and chat with a counselor who will ask several questions to ascertain their problem. This discussion may either be in the form of a live chat, an email exchange or even video conferencing (if the patient has a webcam). Through general questions, the free online therapy counselor will determine whether the problem needs to be addressed by an online therapist or a traditional face-to-face therapist (in the case of crisis counseling, the free online therapy counselor will most likely recommend traditional counseling).

With a few websites, the free online therapy assessment may be conducted by a "chatbot", which is a computer program that can read and understand responses and ask related questions. While this method may be useful in giving a very general pre-diagnosis of a problem and help refer a patient to other sources, it cannot assess the intricacies of a patient's answers and make adjustments based on the tone of their response. The "chatbot" sites may present a list of options designed to narrow down the basis of the problem, such as type of problem, duration of problem, etc. Through this method it may give general solutions or strategies a patient can use to address the issue.

Although a free online therapy session imposes no cost on a user that does not mean that the advice it dispenses should not be accurate. Many free online therapy sites are run by licensed doctors and their general advice should still be based on sound therapy principles. A potential user of a free online therapy website should still check the credentials of the organizers of the site to ascertain if they are being presented by a qualified doctor or organization.

Most free online therapy is done anonymously, as opposed to regular online therapy sessions, which impose a fee for their services and therefore require personal information. A free online therapy session should not require personal information from a patient other than information directly related to their individual problem. If a free online therapy website asks for personal information such as a bank account number, name and/or address, consider searching elsewhere for advice and counseling.

Free online therapy sessions are by no means meant to fully address the problems of a potential patient. But the convenient method we here at offer may be a great way to set them on the road to getting the proper help they need to answer their emotional and mental needs.