There is little doubt that e-counseling is already creating a major impact on the mental health world but how extensive that impact is right now and how much of a change it will precipitate in the future is hard to determine. Only a few studies have been designed to test how impactful this type of therapy is and many of those are still in the beginning phases. What is obvious is that there are positive signs from people who are using these services and also from the mental health world as well.
Online Therapy and Smart Phone Apps: Help at Your Fingertips
One of the biggest impacts that online therapy as well as things like smart phone apps and other forms of eCounseling will have is the ability to give instant assistance to people who are in crisis without the need for searching for phone numbers. Being able to text a message to someone can be a world of difference to someone who feels overwhelmed and maybe does not have the ability to vocalize their problem at that moment. For teens and young adults who have grown up with technology, this may be the more comfortable mode of conversation and may be the first step they need to take toward any kind of therapy at all. Perhaps they will start with online treatment and eventually will ask to see someone face to face but even if that never happens, at least they are getting some help for their problems via technology.
Ecounseling Expands the World of Treatment
Accessibility is often described as one of the major stumbling blocks to therapy. Some people live in area where medical services in general are not available and mental health treatment is unheard of. Even in areas where some mental health centers are located, there are people who struggle with transportation and others who struggle with getting the time off to make it to appointments. Since all of this is addressed with online therapy, mental health services become more accessible to everyone. Being able to access a counselor at hours outside of regular office hours is beneficial to those who work later shifts or those who are forced to work more than one job to survive.
Accessing treatment via computer or smartphone, even in a public setting such as a library can be less stigmatizing than going to a counselor’s office. There are still people who view mental health issues as a sign of weakness or as something negative. Many people prefer to hide their issues from others, even those who could be part of their support system. For these people, eCounseling allows them to get the treatment they need without giving their secret away.
It Brings Down the Cost of Treatment
Perhaps one of the biggest impacts that online treatment and eCounseling will have on the mental health world will be the way that fees are determined. As more people access the counseling services online, counselors will need to readjust their thinking. If a person would go to counseling in office but cannot do so because of the fees, would the counselor benefit from changing the fees? If more and more counselors start seeing more openings on their schedules will they adopt new fee schedules or move to sliding fee schedules if they don’t use them already? Will they work to gain back the patients they are losing or will the entire mental health world change and move toward a technology-based future?