Why Virtual Counseling
Web counseling has been shown to be more economical for both the therapist and the client.
Web counseling is easily accessible to all those who wish to use it. Online therapy overcomes barriers that may preclude others from seeking therapy. For example, individuals residing in rural or remote areas where there is no counselling services can benefit from the accessibility of online counseling.
Those that are physically disabled or unable to leave their home can also easily access such services with little inconvenience. Those that have visual and hearing impairments can also benefit from such services. Web counseling has also shown to be effective in encouraging children and teenagers to receive therapy as they seem to be more comfortable with using the internet.
Online therapy is convenient. Both the therapist and the client have the convenience of corresponding with each other at a range of variant times. This style of therapy can take away the hassle of scheduling and setting appointments more common in traditional settings. This also creates an opportunity for the therapist to extend their services to more clients as appointments can be potentially scheduled over 24 hours and reach a larger geographical region.
For those individuals who are ambivalent about therapy or who may be uncomfortable with traditional models of therapy, may find online counseling more suitable whereby it has been found that online therapy is preferred by those who are uncomfortable with talking face to face with someone about their problems or who are suffering from social phobias, agoraphobia or anxiety disorders.
Online counseling may also be effective in eliminating social stigma associated with receiving therapy. For those who are uncomfortable with receiving therapy, online counseling allows access to such services in private without having to visit the counseling center. Counseling can take on a whole different image when executed by the client in their own home through the computer. It may also allow the client to feel less stigmatized without having to be seen by others in the waiting room, the administrative staff or any other person who just happens to be walking past at the time the client walks through the door.
Because of this, online counseling clearly does offer the client a degree of anonymity that may reduce such social stigma and therefore prompt them to seek assistance when they might otherwise have hesitated.
The absence of face to face contact can also prompt clients to communicate more openly without concerns for bias of race, gender, age, size or physical appearance. This may lead to an increased level of honesty and therefore higher validity in the case of self disclosure. The internet clearly offers a level of anonymity that is perceived by many users as non-threatening through allowing an 'invisibility' that can be dis-inhibiting.
Variant ways to communicate
Most communication through the internet is in written form. Online counseling, in which the mode of communication is often through writing via emails or a chat room, allows both the client and the therapist to pay close attention to their communication and reflect on their thoughts and feelings prior to it being expressed. This may be a particularly suitable way of communication for those clients who experience difficulty expressing themselves in words. Clients may also be able to communicate better in this environment as they are not affected by the therapist's nonverbal cues.
Research suggests that writing during times of distress is particularly useful for clients as it is considered to provide a vital avenue for emotional healing. Given that online counseling is an interactive form of therapeutic writing, interventions delivered in this environment may be quite effective in encouraging clients to express themselves in more thoughtful, self reflective and insightful ways. Having a written record also allows the client to have a reference point in future discussion, review and in the assessment of change and progress.