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The Disadvantages of Online Counseling

Sometimes, online counseling meets a valued need:

  • If you live in a rural town – online counseling may be the only way you can access mental health services
  • If you're very concerned about anonymity, online therapy may assuage your secrecy concerns
  • If you're a person that works an erratic and busy schedule, email therapy may offer you a chance to get help, without committing to a scheduled appointment.

Online counseling offers a lot to a lot of people, but although online counseling offers unprecedented access to services, convenience and anonymity, it's still far from a perfect solution, not right for everyone and still entails some risk.

Some of the Disadvantages of Online Counseling Include:

  • Typing speed can limit the conveyance of information in chat based sessions. Sometimes people say less when writing than they would when speaking; reducing the amount of information available for the therapist to work from.
  • People may find it difficult to put complex thoughts and emotions into written words. People have different skills as expressive writers
  • There is a greater chance of miscommunication between client and therapist. Therapists cannot as easily access body language information (even when using video chat). Counselors are therefore at a greater risk of missing important non-verbal cues
  • Online counselors are not able (ethically) to work with people in immediate crisis or with serious psychiatric illness. In these situations, counselors must be on-site to observe the client in person and evaluate the degree of risk and the best continuing course of action.
  • Although all legitimate therapists must abide by confidentiality and privacy constraints, online therapy may pose a greater security risk than in-person sessions. Someone could breach your computer, your wifi point, your therapist's computer – etc; and since what you reveal may be very sensitive, privacy issues are significant.
  • Insurance companies rarely cover the costs of online counseling.
  • It may be easier for unscrupulous illegitimate/uncertified counselors to operate online. Some online counseling clients may be putting themselves at risk of, at best, wasted money, and at worst, dangerous mental health advice. Even legitimate therapists operating from other countries (or even from other states) may not require the same standard of certification. Due diligence is necessary, when retaining the services of an online counselor.
  • Medication cannot be prescribed after an online counseling session.
  • An unreliable internet connection may interrupt the flow and delivery of the therapy.

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