Online Counseling Services: A Viable Alternative to Traditional Counseling

The idea of online counseling services may be difficult to comprehend for some. Traditionally, counseling usually involves traveling to a therapist's office, spending an hour or so discussing issues related to your problems, getting feedback and helpful advice, and then scheduling your next appointment.

In addition, a traditional counseling service also involves arranging for payment via your health insurance program, determining what treatments are covered by your plan, whether you can afford the services, and making arrangement for transportation and/or childcare when you actually attend your therapy session.

It is a somewhat complex process but, with your peace of mind as the goal, one you're more than willing to undertake.

But with the new option of online counseling services, many patients who grudgingly accepted the time commitment and scheduling it took for a traditional counseling session are finding that attending online counseling is resulting in one less worry.

Traditional counseling, of course, will never be replaced by an online counseling service such as There are certain emotional and mental problems that will always need to be addressed by face-to-face treatment, particularly those (such as suicidal thoughts) that can lead to a crisis situation. In addition, many traditional counselors stress that it is important for a therapist to establish a personal relationship with the patient, using their demeanor, body language, and other cues to gauge their state of mind and the effectiveness of the treatment.

But for many patients, even this one-on-one approach has its drawbacks. For some, one of their problems may actually be face-to-face communication, and having to cope with this situation as a condition of their therapy may be difficult for them to accept. Admittedly, at some point, they will have to come to grips with this problem, but the initial contact may delay the process.

For other patients, it's a question of time. While they may have reached the conclusion that therapeutic help is in their best interest, family and work commitments may make it difficult to schedule the time for a counseling session. The sometimes restrictive hours of a counselor may require a great deal of time juggling, and the added pressure to make it to a session on time can only add to a patient's overall anxiety.

And for still others, there's the cost. A therapy session can be an economic burden for some, including those who need it most. (Lack of a job and/or financial problems may, in fact, be one of the issues causing distress for the patient.) Many employee health plans cover some form of therapy and counseling, but there may be limitations on the type of counseling or on the allowable length of the counseling itself.

These facts are transforming online counseling services into a viable alternative to traditional counseling, giving patients a new therapeutic and economic option for addressing their emotional needs.

Online counseling services can successfully address many of the medical, social, and economic needs of the patient that can't be met by traditional counseling. But while it does have its distinct advantages, there are precautions that a potential patient should take, as they should with any online venture.

Though it is a relatively new phenomenon, online counseling services have become increasingly popular with doctors and patients not only in the U.S. but also around the world. For instance, a new $2.1 million online counseling service financed by the Ministry of Health, called 'Beating the Blues', was recently unveiled in New Zealand. The eight-week online counseling program targets patients with mild to moderate depression.

While the 'Beating the Blues' program has the backing of the New Zealand government, verifying the authenticity is one of the first steps a patient should take when considering online counseling services. There are many legitimate online counselors available. doctors and therapists who have spent years in regular practice before bringing their expertise to the online community.but there are also unscrupulous profiteers who seek to take advantage of those seeking help by making false claims about their credentials and qualifications.

Because of the presence of these misrepresentations, experts caution patients to research the qualifications and credentials of all of the doctors they are considering. Check with the governing bodies they claim to be members of to make sure they are actually affiliated with them. In addition, make sure that the governing bodies they claim to be members of are actual organizations and not creations of the false doctors themselves. Avoiding scams is one of the first missions of those seeking online counseling services.

Next, ask the therapist questions before beginning any online counseling services. Find out their methods and how they adjust them to fit the online community. Ask them about their manner of treatment and whether they offer online counseling services via email, live chat, videoconferencing, or other media. The method of delivery of the service may determine its usefulness to you and your needs.

Investigate the online counseling services costs and method of payment. While online counseling services are generally cheaper than traditional counseling services, the costs may or may not be covered by your existing health insurance. Many employee health insurance plans may only cover traditional counseling services so check with your employee health insurance administrator for the details.

With regards to billing, some online counseling services may bill you automatically while others request payment either before or upon completion of services. Find out the details before agreeing to the contract. Automatic payments may continue to be withdrawn from your account even if you have discontinued service abruptly for whatever reason. Be sure to make yourself acquainted with the billing methods and pay schedule before beginning treatment.

Finally, know that online counseling services, just like traditional counseling services, may not be the complete answer to your problems. Online counseling services, in fact, may be shorter in duration than traditional counseling services. And they are not recommended for crisis counseling. Online counseling services will traditionally recommend those who are in a crisis situation to a qualified therapist in their area to get the immediate treatment they need.

Online counseling services offer an interesting new option in the field of therapy. But like many new ventures in the online world, it requires research and investigation into the process. Check with several online counseling services such as and discuss your issues and concerns with a qualified online counselor before beginning any therapy. The convenience and availability of online counseling services may be the answer you seek.