Do you feel the need to talk to someone in confidence, but you don’t have the time or the means to visit a counsellor? Online or telephone counselling could be the answer.
While more people are now aware of the benefits of counselling, many can’t access face-to-face therapy because they have such busy lives.
But counselling is evolving alongside improvements in technology, and it’s now easier to access trained therapists over the phone or online. More and more people are choosing online or telephone counselling as a flexible and convenient option.
While online and telephone counselling can be just as effective as face-to-face counselling, it’s a different experience, so it’s a good idea to weigh up the benefits of each channel to see what’s right for you.
To help you decide, I’ll explain what online and telephone counselling involves, and I’ll explain how telephone and online counselling can benefit you. I’ll also outline situations where face to face counselling might be a better choice for you.
What is online counselling?
Online counselling is any form of counselling that takes place over the internet. This could be via email, via a messaging service or via a video call service like Skype.
What is telephone counselling?
Telephone counselling works in the same way as face-to-face counselling, but the sessions take place over the phone.
You can also access telephone counselling through helplines. These can be a good source of short-term support if you need to talk to someone urgently. There are some listed at the end of this post.
How does online and telephone counselling work?
Both online and telephone counselling give you the freedom to discuss what’s troubling you in confidence, and the counsellor will listen, offer insights and support.
Before you start, you’ll have an informal chat so you can get to know your counsellor and establish whether you’re happy to work with them. The counsellor will find out what you want to achieve from therapy and discuss how many sessions you might need.
After that, sessions are usually at a pre-arranged time that’s convenient to you, and typically last 45 minutes to an hour, although if you’re getting counselling via email or calling a helpline there’s more flexibility.
Whatever channel of counselling you choose, what you say will be treated in confidence.
Benefits of online and telephone counselling
Distance can make it easier to talk openly
Not being physically face to face with a therapist can be helpful if you’re very anxious about attending counselling. Some people suffer from social anxiety and find it difficult to express themselves while keeping eye contact. And even if you’re outgoing, you may find being distanced from your counsellor makes it easier for you to open up.
Online and telephone counselling offers an extra level of privacy because you don’t have to physically visit a counselling centre. While there’s no shame in attending counselling, if you’re worried about someone you know finding out about your therapy, choosing online or telephone counselling is a more discreet alternative.
You might feel more relaxed in the comfort of your own home if it’s an environment that’s safe and familiar. And this means you might find it easier to open up about difficult or sensitive issues.
If you’ve a physical illness or disability that makes travelling difficult, telephone or online counselling is a great solution. Similarly, if you’re affected by a mental illness or on medication that makes travel a challenge, getting help while at home could be a good option for you.
Online or telephone counselling is also a good alternative if you live in a remote location where there aren’t any trained counsellors, or there’s a long waiting list.
More flexible if you’re short of time
If you work or care for someone full-time, finding a counsellor who can see you at a time you’re free can be a challenge. While face to face counselling can get booked up, especially at popular times like evenings and weekends, online or telephone counselling is more flexible. You don’t have to spend time traveling to and from a session and your therapist can offer appointments outside of office hours.
Telephone or online counselling doesn’t incur any travel costs. And if you have children, you don’t need to arrange and pay for childcare. The counsellor may sometimes offer a slightly lower rate for telephone and online counselling too, because they don’t have overheads like the cost of renting a counselling room.
More safe and discreet
Leaving the house can be unsafe for people affected by domestic violence or in a controlling relationship where their actions are monitored or questioned by an abusive partner. If you think it would be a risk to attend face-to-face therapy, online or telephone counselling is a more discreet option.
More options to choose your therapist
Because you’re not limited to your local area when finding a therapist, you’ve more choices on who you would like to work with. You can find a counsellor you’ve a good rapport with, or someone who specialises in the type of therapy you’re looking for, such as addiction or bereavement.
Benefits of face-to-face counselling
Online and telephone counselling has many advantages, but there are some situations where face-to-face therapy can be a better option for you:
Face to face counselling can offer more peace and privacy
Seeing a counsellor face-to-face can be easier If there’s usually other people in your home and you’re worried about being overheard during an online or telephone session. Therapy rooms are carefully set up to be very private and free from distractions.
You have more time to process your feelings
When traveling to and from face-to-face therapy you’ve got the chance to organise your thoughts before a session, and collect yourself afterwards. Many people find their travel time is an important part of the therapeutic process because they’re able to reflect on the session without having to jump straight back into their daily lives.
Face to face counselling doesn’t rely on technology
Attending traditional counselling means you won’t have to worry about technical issues like a poor internet connection or phone signal.
You might find it easier to communicate
While some people prefer to open up from a distance, others find it easier to trust a therapist if they can see the therapist’s reactions and his or her body language. If you’re one of them, face-to-face counselling might be a better option for you.
It can be easier to develop a close relationship with your therapist
Similarly, non-verbal cues like body language can give the therapist a clearer picture of your feelings, and these cues aren’t available on a telephone call, or a video chat where a therapist can only see your head and shoulders. The intimacy of face-to-face therapy means an exchange of subtle cues that can strengthen the relationship between you, which in turn makes the therapy more effective.
So online and telephone counselling can be ideal for you if you’re busy, find it difficult to travel or feel speaking to someone face-to-face is too intense. But face-to-face counselling provides a quiet environment, time to process your feelings, and could mean a closer relationship with your therapist.
Whatever channel you decide to go for, if you’ve made the choice to seek therapy you’ve taken your first step on your road to recovery. I hope this article has helped you decide which type of counselling is the best fit for you. And whatever you’re going through at the moment, I wish you the very best for getting the support that’s right for you.
Need someone to talk to? Get in touch with me
Do you need someone to talk to? You’re welcome to get in touch with me. I’m a qualified and registered person-centred counsellor and hypnotherapist. I offer face-to-face counselling in Manchester. I also provide both telephone counselling and online counselling via Skype to people across the UK.
The Samaritans – 116-123 is a helpline that’s free and open 24/7. It’s run by trained volunteers.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255 This helpline provides 24/7, free and confidential support. There’s also a live chat option on their website.
National Counselling Society – The society for counsellors and therapists has a national database of trained, registered counsellors.
The Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (ACTO) is an association for therapists and counsellors working online therapeutically.