With the ever-advancing internet age, people are turning more frequently to the internet for all kinds of help.
For those who have a mental health condition, this now includes using the internet to seek out virtual mental health services. Online mental health services are appealing for many reasons. They give you the flexibility to set your own schedule, with the convenience of doing so from the comfort of your own home.
However, while there are many positives to accessing mental health benefits online, there are also some drawbacks you should be aware of if you are considering online mental health services. They include worrying about a therapist’s credentials, as well as your confidentiality and anonymity. Thus, before you sign up for an online mental health service, you will need to know the advantages and disadvantages of the online mental health platform.
What types of online mental health services are available? As with many topics and services on the internet, there are many different types of online mental health options available you. Some popular websites allow you to connect directly with a therapist by chatting back and forth in an instant message setting. There are also online mental health services that let you video chat with a therapist or counselor for a more personal session. Then there are mental health service apps, which allow the user to seek advice from a therapist or counselor from the palm of their hand. While online mental health services offer many advantages to those with mental health conditions, they also have their disadvantages. Both of these are discussed below.
Online mental health services have opened the door to many people with mental health conditions who may have no other way to seek help. This could be because they live in a remote or rural area where therapy treatment is not available. They could also be disabled or confined to a bed, and getting out of the house for therapy may not be possible. Whatever the reason, online mental health services provide those who need it with instant access to a therapist or counselor.
People who keep odd hours may be unable to see a therapist or counselor during regular business hours. However, since online mental health services are conducted from anywhere, you can schedule therapy sessions around your routine and not the schedule of a therapist. You also can correspond with your virtual therapist during a larger time range, allowing for better communication and dependability.
Another benefit to online mental health services is that they are often more affordable than in-person therapy sessions. Patients will not have to worry about driving or taking mass transit to therapy sessions. They will not need to worry about parking fees or taking time off of work for weekly sessions. Since services available online are run differently than traditional therapy sessions, you can also expect to spend less money.
Sometimes it is hard for people to open up if they are forced to make face-to-face contact, which can make it hard for the therapist to diagnose the patient’s issue based on her or his symptoms. Since patients have anonymity online, they do not have to fear prejudice based on their race, sex, age or physical appearance. Many people turn to online mental health services for the feeling of being “invisible.” Online mental health services often seem less threatening than in-person therapy. Feeling confident and safe may allow patients to be more honest with their therapists than they would be in a more traditional setting.
While there are many advantages to online mental health services, it is essential to understand the disadvantages. If you have a mental health condition, you may be facing challenges living a healthy life, and mental health services should help you feel better. However, if you are speaking to a therapist that is not correctly licensed or if your identity is not confidential, then the service may be doing more harm than good.
When you meet with a therapist in person, that therapist is bound to secrecy. While an online mental health service may say the same, it may be impossible to know for sure what data they are collecting and sharing. Therapy is a place where you share your most intimate feelings. You should not have to worry about that information being exploited. However, with online mental health services, it is a concern that you need to take seriously. Since data is shared and transmitted online, websites and apps are susceptible to leaks and hacks, which can spread your personal information.
During an in-person therapy session, a therapist can read a patient’s body language. In a physical setting, body language often gives a therapist a better picture of how the patient really feels. While online mental health services that offer video chat and voice chat help therapists pick up on a patient’s vocal cues, the sessions can still lack the physical presence that is needed for a therapist to read a patient accurately.
Online mental health services can be beneficial to those who suffer from mild or moderate mental health conditions. However, for those who have severe or complicated mental illnesses or disorders, online services may actually be harmful. These types of mental health conditions require constant, direct and close treatment, which cannot always be given on an online platform. Since online therapy is limited, it can seldom help more severe situations, so those with more serious mental health issues should seek in-person aid from a trained and licensed mental health professional.
As the number of online mental health services continue to grow, so does the challenge to implement legal and ethical codes. Since patients from different states and countries use these websites, there are many issues with regulations. Different states have different licensing and credential requirements for therapists and also different treatment guidelines. Furthermore, when you have therapists treating patients from around the world, it is hard to set universal regulations. Until guidelines are officially set for online mental health services, the legality and even the ethics of these sites will continue to come under scrutiny.