Online or In-Person Counseling. Which One is Best?
How to decide which one is the right fit for you.
I offer in-person and online sessions and I often get asked, “Which is better online or in-person counseling?”
I am writing this blog because as I tried to explain a "simple" answer about these options the more it became complicated. So, to help you make a decision that is best for you, I have provided some crucial things to consider based on research and my personal experience doing both forms of therapy.
Debate Whether Online Counseling or In-person Counseling is Better
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, online counseling for mental health services is in huge demand. In April 2020, telehealth usage across all healthcare services was 78X greater compared to the prior 2 months according to a McKinsey& Company report. Unfortunately, research studies have not found a clear winner when comparing both modes of treatment.
So, there are a lot of personal opinions on whether online counseling is better than face-to-face counseling for mental health issues. Some insist online counseling is not as effective because it does not allow for the same level of intimacy as in-person therapy sessions. Others contend telehealth sessions are more convenient and that technology does not get in the way of an effective therapeutic relationship with the counselor.
How is Online Counseling Different Than In-Person Counseling?
Before we go any further let’s define the differences between online counseling and in-person counseling.
Online counseling is also known as online therapy, telehealth, or video counseling. It is essentially the same as traditional in-person (or face-to-face) therapy, however, instead of meeting with your therapist face-to-face, you meet through a video. The technology uses the screen on a smartphone or computer with an internet connection.
It is important to understand the benefits of online therapy as compared to those of in-person therapy. The benefits of each also point out the drawbacks of the other form of treatment.
Benefits of Online Therapy
- Convenience: Online therapy can be received from the comfort of home, which eliminates the need for transportation and can be especially beneficial for people who have mobility or transportation issues.
- Flexibility: Online counseling sessions can be scheduled at times and places that are convenient and can be accessed from nearly any location with a smart device and an internet connection.
- Cost-effective: Online counseling can be more cost-effective than traditional in-person therapy, as it eliminates the need for expenses such as transportation, parking, and child care.
Benefits of In-Person Counseling
- Relationship-building: Face-to-face counseling may allow a stronger therapeutic relationship with the therapist, which can be vital for the success of therapy.
- Nonverbal communication: In-person counseling allows for the therapist to pick up on nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice which can provide additional insight into the client's emotions and thoughts.
- Clinical Techniques: Some forms of therapy such as somatic therapy to address anxiety or EMDR to treat trauma may involve physical touch that can only be done in person.
Important Considerations When Considering Online Counseling or Telehealth
- Privacy and security: Online counseling may involve sharing sensitive personal information over the internet, so it's important to ensure that the platform being used is secure and complies with all relevant privacy laws.
- Insurance coverage and cost: It's important to check if your insurance covers online counseling, and also consider the cost if you need to pay out of pocket.
- Location: Although video therapy offers many conveniences, there is an essential restriction for users in the State of New Jersey. As a patient, you must access online counseling when your location is within the state line according to New Jersey telehealth regulations. For readers who reside in other states, you will need to check with your state rules.
Finding the Best of Both Worlds
When deciding between these two types of counseling options for your mental health needs, think about what matters most to you: convenience or connection. If convenience is more important than being able to connect with your counselor face-to-face then online therapy might be right for you! However, you can get the best of both worlds if you select a therapist who can provide you with a hybrid model that covers both telehealth and traditional in-person therapy sessions.
If you are interested in learning more about which form of therapy may be the best fit for your situation, please contact Darryl Donlin, LCSW at This Is NOW Counseling, or Request a Free Consultation and select the most convenient time for us to talk more.