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Online Counselling Services: Understanding Your Options

Dr. Joti Samra

November 6, 2019

RESILIENCY

Online Counselling Services: Understanding Your Options

Online counselling services are becoming more and more popular as our lives get busier and we become more technologically connected. Online counselling provides a unique opportunity to people with busy schedules or other concerns that prevent them from being able to access in-office treatment.

If you’re interested in online counselling it may be difficult to know where to start as there are already many different services available, often at vastly different price points.

Types of Online Counselling Services

So, what types of online counselling services exist? And how do you know which services are best for you? Here we will talk about the different types of online counselling services and their pros and cons.

1. Apps (standalone use)

  • An app that provides information and guidance on specific strategies or approaches that help enhance mental health. For example, guided meditations. (Apps such as; Headspace or MindShift CBT).
  • Benefits/Cons: Easy, free/cheap, no commitment and self-directed. However, requires the motivation to do the self-directed work and ideally some knowledge of CBT or therapy generally.

2. Apps (community-based support/chat rooms – for example: Healthful Chat)

  • Basically self-directed plus community rooms/chats to ask questions, sometimes with a facilitator being there to moderate comments.
  • Benefits/Cons: Easy, free/cheap, and provides quick access. But in most cases, it’s not better than having a close friend or family member to talk to. Often there’s also limited vetting of the content people share or recommend, so advice may not necessarily be aligned with evidence-based or best practice approaches to treatment.

3. Apps with coaching supports (example: Better help)

  • This is app-based, incorporating facilitation, often with paraprofessionals that aren’t licensed/registered.
  • Benefits/Cons: They provide on-demand support for a low cost. But the support tends to be minimal and generic and there is no continuity of care. These types of services have their place but it’s important to determine the actual qualifications of those providing care. It’s important that counsellors and therapists are registered or licensed with their local governing bodies, like the College of Psychologists of BC, or the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors, and that their qualifications and education are up to date. You can determine someone’s qualifications by asking them where they’re registered, what their education/degrees are in, and what specialized skills or training they’ve obtained.

For these first three options, they’re best used by those who are familiar with counselling/CBT/therapy and just need a little more support. Typically, that includes those with mild symptoms or people who use them in conjunction with other therapy methods. Think about this in comparison to a fitness app, these can be helpful tools for tracking progress, setting goals, and discovering variations to workouts, but they’re best suited for those who are already motivated by fitness and have some knowledge.

4. Online counselling Service

  • This is virtually the same as in-office therapy and is conducted by licensed or registered professionals. Online counselling service is what we offer at Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych & Associates.
  • Benefits/Cons: Therapy is conducted by a real person that you can see, there’s continuity in care, and the treatment is unique and tailored to each client (rather than generic as per options 1-3). This is the recommended approach for those with more moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety or depression. Or those who are struggling with ongoing workplace or personal stressors which they are having a hard time getting a handle on themselves.

What is continuity of care?

Continuity of care is the consistency and effectiveness of treatment over time. With mental health services, this includes the work a person does with their individual practitioner over time, as well as the focus on working with other members of the individuals’ health care team (if/as needed).

When services don’t have this continuity, there’s something that’s lost in the therapeutic experience. That’s not to say these types of services don’t have a place. They’re effective in providing crisis management, for example supporting a person through the process of panic attacks. It’s important to understand the differences between these services to determine which is most appropriate based on your goals and financial needs.

Are you ready to book your online counselling session? If so, get it touch! We’re also happy to provide more information if you have any questions.

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