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Does Online Counseling Work?

Updated: Dec 1, 2023


woman online

My experience with online counseling therapy actually dates back to 2010 when I started to examine what the barriers to counseling were for some people.


I noticed that some people didn’t feel comfortable coming into the office - you know the whole idea of finding a place, driving there, looking for parking, the elevator ride up, checking in with reception, sitting in a waiting room with others and then finally coming into an office.


Other clients would tell me about their confidentiality concerns given the field of work they were in. Were the walls actually soundproof? They didn't want to be seen coming into the office, didn't feel comfortable in an office environment, or left the office feeling vulnerable to outside staff or even returning to their own offices afterward.


Even more, clients talked about the time constraints - could a 50-minute session be just that instead of the pleasantries at the front desk, waiting for a glass of water, putting on and off of jackets, and of course - parking, and driving?


The next bunch of clients who asked about online counseling were looking at geographical concerns - they either worked in the field of mental health and didn't want to see colleagues or they lived very far from counseling offices. Lambton County and rural Alberta come to mind.


So many clients asked if I’d come to their home which also didn’t feel feasible or professional to me..but the idea stayed with me and I started to explore how I could actually “be with you in the comfort of your home” without “being in your home”.


And as always, I’ve been passionate about reducing as many barriers to counseling as possible.


So in 2010, I started asking LOTS of questions and pushing outside of the “norm", an out of box thinker by heart I needed to figure this online counseling thing out!


But, before I could offer this service to patients I needed to know 100% if it worked - it would be wrong to break a patient's trust.


I studied online counseling therapy by becoming certified through the University of Toronto and then trialed it as both a patient and provider.


Read and re-read the research to see how it would differ and what differentiations there were to be applied.


I was finally convinced and armed with strategies to put it into action!


Since then I’ve been providing online therapy with success.


What I know is that, in our practice, we don’t feel online counseling therapy is for you if you:
  • Don’t have access to space where you feel comfortable to talk

  • Have been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder

  • Are actively using drugs or alcohol


So if that’s not you…carry on!


What about if you’re not “techy”?


Luckily, most platforms are “click and connect” now. For example, in our clinic, you get a link 30 minutes before your session that you simply click on, and voila you’re in! We are also able to offer 3 other platforms if the first one isn’t suitable!


Not into video? No problem, phone therapy is also effective just not ok if you’re driving or have others in the vehicle with you.


Is online counseling confidential?

I personally find in-person less confidential! Why? Because in person the sound can travel between walls especially in shared office settings, in person you are seen coming into the building, you chat with the receptionist and anyone else you meet in the waiting room as you enter or exit (with puffy eyes sometimes!).


Our online platforms are HIPPA compliant which is why you click on the link to enter into the space.


Clients with depression, pain, children, travel schedules, remote living, and many more tell me that online therapy has helped them remove barriers and access support more easily.


In a small town accessing online counseling therapy also means your car isn’t seen, neighbors aren’t prying and you’re able to relax in your own private space with full control over who is around you!


Wait, online counseling could be MORE effective?


Yup, what I’ve seen over the years is that when someone is comfortable in their home, perhaps with a treasured furry friend who can sit with them - we are able to quickly get into the work of things. This comfort doesn’t need to be faked in a counseling room setting. We usually make counseling rooms “feel like” a home living room for you - so if you can get the real thing - you’ll find that you’re able to relax and engage quickly rather than having to allow your mind to settle into finding comfort and safety in the counseling room.


I’ve found that patients are also more willing to speak of things they may not have when in office!


It’s also more time efficient - we don’t lose time taking off your jacket, getting you a glass of water, or walking down hallways - when you’re online you get the FULL session time!


Seasoned practitioners are able to pick up nonverbal cues and know which questions to ask when exploring aspects of a situation


Plus Bonuses!


Recently I was in session with a patient and noticed the piano behind her. I asked about it and she shared that it used to be soothing for her - we explored why she had stopped and she decided to start up again and has found it helps with her self-care strategies. I would have never known this was an option for her if we were in office!


Speaking of saving time, by not having to travel and park - your one-hour appointment is literally just that one hour of your time to dedicate to inner work.


Wondering if we can still connect with resources when doing online counselling?


You bet! If we need to do an intervention or provide resources we can absolutely do that in the same way we would if you were in office. In fact, it’s that much easier since we wouldn’t have to “wait” for anyone to arrive - we can just add them immediately to the conversation! We can hop on resource calls together and I can provide you with everything since it’s right on your fingertips - literally!


Are there other types of online counselling?


Yup! You may only be thinking about phone and video but did you know there’s a third option? Written encrypted emails with a professionally trained e-therapist is a phenomenal tool for many clients. Over the years my patients who are traveling or very tight on time will write me a 2-3 page email - almost like a diary entry. I then write back to them (it reads a little different than what a usual email looks like) and they can access the password-protected document.


The feedback I’ve received is that it feels like your journal is writing back to you! Going line by line the feedback is not only helpful - but right there in writing for you to access whenever you need it!


The world of counseling is changing and growing. It’s an exciting and dynamic time for mental health - at the intersection of so many disciplines such as neuroscience, medicine, naturopath, and yes even IT!


Now more than ever you are empowered to take care of and thrive in your mental health! Many of the barriers for those privileged with phones and the internet are reduced!


Curious? Let’s give it a try - your meet and greet is free and I’m happy to assess if your situation is suitable for online therapy! You can book it HERE.


Stop being stuck

Start living your best life!



 

Farah Kurji Jena Hemraj Jenna Ibach Joanne Simpson Saranki Sivan

Farah Kurji and her team have been providing online counseling since 2010 with great success and are happy to help you navigate.

You can book a free meet and greet HERE

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