Online Therapy & Life Coaching in Michigan
I keep hearing about online therapy. What the heck is it?
Technology based therapy has been around for years, but this most recent decade has given rise to web-based therapy. For years, mental health organizations and companies have provided therapy services via the phone, such as prevention hotlines, etc., or offered assistance through their website and emails. So mental health providers using technology to help people is nothing new. What is newer to the scene is therapists, counselors, and life coaches who meet with their clients via their computers in real-time. It’s a growing mode of bringing quality help in a package that clients love and are asking for in increasing numbers. (Note: when I talk about online therapy here, I’m also including life coaching.)
Okay, you’ve intrigued me, tell me more about online therapy.
Benefits of online therapy
1. You Can Save Time
Let’s face it, we are a busy culture and could all use some extra minutes in the day. Reduce the your drive time, time away from your family and friends. Help doesn’t have to require using up an entire morning, afternoon, or evening any longer.
2. Spend Less money
We all know how gas prices can go through the roof. Tacking on paying for childcare to the cost of counseling can feel like it’s breaking the pocket-book. Safe a few bucks or a lotta bucks! If you’re an hourly employee, traveling to and from a therapist or life coach’s office is more hours you are not getting paid. Every penny helps.
3. Reduce milage on your car
All you car leasers would probably appreciate keeping that milage meter low this year. Reserve your milage and wear and tear on your car for those adventures with a friend, or visiting family over the holidays.
4. Feel more relaxed
For some, coming to a therapist’s office can be a bit nerve-wracking. While I make a huge effort to make my clients feel at ease, you may experience less anxiety in the comfort of your own home or wherever you choose to conduct your sessions.
5. Increase your choices of therapists and life coaches
Since you are not limited to someone within your desired commuting distance, you can expand your search. If you are in the United States, therapy licensing laws allow you to choose any therapist licensed in the State where you live. With the increased number of therapists, you have greater chances to find one who is a better fit for you and even specializes in the areas where you want help.
6. Increase your appointment options
Depending on your available hours and the hours the therapist has open, you may have more time-slot options if you are having your sessions online.
7. Help for people with mobility struggles
You may be someone who, do to physical limitations, would have a very difficult time traveling to a therapist’s office. Online therapy give you the chance to meet with a therapist, where you might not have been able to otherwise.
Types of online therapy
- Phone Therapy
- Email Therapy
- Text/Messaging Therapy
- Web Sessions
- Combinations of the above
Misconceptions of online therapy
Anything new comes with a few nay-sayers and a some misunderstandings. Online therapy is no different. Certain therapists do their best work when they meet with their clients face-to-face. They do not see themselves using online therapy in their practice. Other therapists have legitimate concerns regarding the efficacy or safety of online therapy, but are seeking out information to understand it more. Now and again there are a few therapists and mental health professionals who downplay or disregard online therapy without knowing all of the facts or experiencing it for themselves. The unknown can be scary. A few of the misconceptions are as follows:
- You cannot truly connect with your clients unless you are face-to-face
- You will miss some of the non-verbal cues at times
- What if a client is suicidal and the therapist lives on the other side of the State?
- Online therapy is not as effective as face-to-face therapy
These concerns are valid and deserve to be answered in a space where they can be adequately discussed. I will say that each of these and other misconceptions are only misconceptions are are not based in 100% fact.
Good candidates for online therapy
Not everyone is a good fit for online therapy
The safety of the client should always be at the forefront of the therapist’s mind. Due to the distance involved in online therapy, clients who for example struggle with severe depression, separation anxiety, PTSD might not be the best candidates for online therapy. Why? Well let’s say a therapist provides online therapy with a client who has PTSD. The client could be severely triggered by something he/she talks about with their therapist. Depending on where the client lives and their access to supports and mental health resources, the therapist could be putting the client at risk of harming themselves or others.
So who is a good candidate for online therapy?
Therapists and coaches may have varying answers on this, but I’m comfortable working with clients who maybe dealing with life-adjustment struggles, mild depression, lower levels of anxiety, career counseling, mild-to-mid levels of grief, relationship struggles, etc. If you have a question about whether or not you are a good fit for the type of counseling, contact the therapist you’re interested in seeing and ask them. They should answer you honestly.
Additional struggles not best suited for online therapy. You also might not be a good candidate if using technology is a big hurdle for you. It maybe hard for you to get used to talking to someone on a screen. If using the electronic software causes you stress or you get anxious when you run into technical difficulties, face-to-face counseling might be a better option for you.
You keeping using a lot of words to describe online counseling. I’m confused.
As well you should be. There are about 40 terms that are floating around cyber-space used to describe online counseling. Here are just a few.
- Distance counseling
- TeleMental Health
- Internet Counseling
- Web-based counseling
- Online therapy
- Electronic counseling
- Technology-based counseling
- Email counseling
- Text-based counseling
While there are lots of synonyms for online therapy, I’ll attempt to stick to mostly using the term ‘online therapy’ on this page to avoid too much confusion.
Is online therapy as effective as face-to-face therapy?
Yes, and research has proved it. If you’re interested in the research article links, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Online therapy can be even more effective than face-to-face counseling for those who have severe social anxiety or any struggle that causes them to not want to be around people. For some of these men and women, email therapy and or text-based therapy can be incredibly beneficial. Plus for those people who have a difficult time reaching a therapist’s office due to mobility or time issues, they may never enter therapy unless they can meet with a therapist or life coach while they are still at home.
Can I still connect with my therapist online as well as face-to-face?
While each client and client-therapist relationship is different, I can’t sit here and say a 100% yes to this question. Most of the research and my experience has proven that clients and therapist connect just as well using online counseling as they would if they were sitting across from each other in the therapist’s office. Many young adults are extremely comfortable communicating through electronic means and even prefer it. While I would not go as far as to say online is clearly superior to face-to-face therapy, it certainly is not to be rejected or considered the evil-step-child of mental health.
Special cautions with online therapy
So while online therapy can be effective, it is not a cure-all. There are precautions that clients and therapist or life coach should consider when engaging in this mode of help:
1. Is the therapist trained in online therapy?
Just because a therapist has a license to practice face-to-face therapy does not mean they will make a good online therapist. But unfortunately numerous therapist and life coaches make that mistake and I believe they could be putting their clients at risk. When choosing an online therapist, I would encourage you to ask them what training and experience they have had with using online therapy. There are reputable and certified training courses for therapist to take. A good seal to look for on a therapist’s website is the “Distance Counseling Credential.”If you have a therapist that you are already meeting with and would like to try a few online therapy sessions; or if you’ve found a counselor you’d like to meet with, ask them if they would be willing to get the necessary training. The worst they can say is no.
2. Questions to ask your online therapist:
- Do you have a plan for emergencies, either yours or mine?
- How are you protecting my confidentially in our counseling sessions? Are you using data encrypted software?
- Do you have an alternate plan should our technology fail during our session?
- Are you licensed to conduct therapy in my State? If they are not licensed in your State, they are not legally allowed to counsel you. I know this can stink, especially if you know of a good counselor that someone referred to you who lives in another State. But the counseling laws of each State are there to protect their own citizens. Plus there is an increasing number of counselors practicing online counseling, so it should not be as hard as you might think to find someone who is a good fit. If you need help in locating a counselor or life coach in your State, please reach out to me and I’ll see what I can do to help.
3. Misunderstandings During Online Therapy Sessions
Due to bad internet connections, voice break-ups and choppy or blurry video, information can be lost or misconstrued by the therapist, life coach, and/or client. For example, you could be telling your therapist something in tears and the therapist does not notice your tears due to the blurry video. Or you may have said something as a joke and your therapist did not hear you clearly and thought you were serious. Misunderstandings happen even in face-to-face counseling, but additional patience and clarifying what you or the therapist said or meant maybe required more often when using online counseling methods.
4. Breakdowns in Technology within Online Therapy
Taking off of what was said above, we all know that as far as technology has come, it still breaks down more often than we would like. You could be pouring your heart out to your life coach and the internet shuts down mid-sentence. Or you could have a challenging time even signing on to the internet due to a storm and have to re-schedule. Increased flexibility is required.
5. Your Privacy with Online Therapy
Every counselor or life coach you meet with online should have electronic systems that are encrypted and that keep your personal information safe. It would also benefit you to think through factors on your end which may jeopardize your privacy. Questions do think through:
- Do you have a room you can use for therapy where you will not be interrupted or have someone walk in and hear your conversation?
- Do you share a computer where someone you do not trust may access your email account or passwords?
On the other hand, meeting with a counselor in their office also has risks to privacy. You may recognize someone you know in the parking lot or in the lobby. Many times these and the above factors do not matter to clients, but if you are one of those people who is does matter, these are things to keep in mind and plan for as much as possible. Talk to your therapist about any privacy concerns that you have.
Combining face-to-face and online counseling
Why not? I’ve had clients who I meet with me face-to-face, but occasionally we meet via the web for the following reasons:
- You are away on vacation
- You are not feeling enough to leave the house, but you still want to keep your session appointment
- You’re a mom with young kids and it’s just been one of those weeks!
- You have a bunch of final exams to study for and you cannot afford the extra drive time to your therapist’s office
- It’s snowing outside and neither you nor your counselor want to be out in this weather.
How does online therapy work?
Each therapist can have a different method, but here’s the general way it works.
- You’ll arrange a time that works for both you and your therapist or life coach.
- They’ll send you an email link to their client portal where you’ll fill out some paperwork. Other therapists may email you the paperwork to fill out or have you download it from their website.
- Your therapist sends you instructions for the computer program you will be using to conduct your therapy sessions. You might have to download some software to your computer, or an app to your smartphone. Other programs you simply log onto a website or follow a weblink that the therapist’s office gives you.
- Your therapist may arrange a tech-check, so that you minimize potential glitches during a session.
- At the conclusion of your session, you and your therapist will arrange your next appointment and management payments.
Can I pick a therapist from anywhere?
Yes and no. It all depends on where you live and the laws governing therapy in your jurisdiction. If you live in the United States, the general rule is your therapist or counselor must have a license to counsel in the State where you live (or are at the moment). So if you live in Tennessee, but are on vacation in Colorado, if your Tennessee therapist is not licensed in Colorado, you cannot have a session while you are on vacation in Colorado. Yes, it’s complicated and a bit sticky, but the laws are there to protect you. Please email me if you have any questions about this.
Many countries outside of the United States do not abide by similar guidelines. Some countries have no laws governing mental health, allowing therapists from other countries to counsel in those countries. Your best bet is to search for the mental health laws in your State or country before having a session with a therapist. While your therapist should also be knowledgable of the laws around therapy in another State or country, they may have to do their own research to be up on the current regulations.
Can we use texting and email in our sessions?
Text and email can be a great addition to online therapy sessions if used properly. Some clients may even choose to only use mail and or text/messaging to conduct therapy sessions. The effectiveness of these methods may depend on the preferences of each particular therapist and client. Areas that should be taken into consideration are:
- The level of therapist’s training in how to safely and effectively use email and or texting in therapy
- Are you as a client comfortable using email and texting for therapy?
- The therapist should go over the limits of confidentiality with using these modes in therapy and how to use them ethically
- Your therapist should provide encrypted systems for email and texting that will protect you and your personal information
Insurance and Online Therapy
Although this is changing, right now most insurance companies do not cover sessions conducted via online, text, or email. But please check with your insurance carrier as this is changing. Some insurance companies will allow online sessions if the therapist has taken a certified training on online therapy.
Yep, online therapy can be weird at first. When I had my first few online sessions, it did take some getting use to talking with my clients on a screen. But most people, including myself get used to it and even come to enjoy it. Online therapy is a great time-effective way to pursue the help that you need. Connect with me today if you’d like to know more or want to schedule an online session with me!