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How Does Online Counseling Work?

With online counseling, you can receive services from a licensed mental health professional from the comfort of your own home, making treatment work with your lifestyle and needs.

Online counseling can occur via phone, webcam, email or text message, and it has been available in some form for over 20 years, according to the American Psychological Association. However, increases in smartphone use have made online counseling more popular in recent years.

Online therapy helps you stay connected to your therapist without going to a physical office for an appointment. Depending on the service and your counselor, you may be able to exchange messages throughout the day or schedule a specific time for a therapy session that works with your schedule.

Starting online therapy usually begins with creating an account on an online therapy app or website. You may complete an initial assessment to help match you with a therapist, choose a suitable payment plan and schedule your first online appointment.

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Who Can Provide Online Counseling?

To legally and ethically provide online counseling, a provider must be licensed to do so. Providers must follow the regulations of their state licensing boards when practicing online, just as they would when providing face-to-face counseling services. Like in-person counseling, online providers may be clinical social workers, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists or drug and alcohol counselors.

Regulations for the provider offering online services may vary from state to state. For example, counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists who are licensed in Ohio can only offer online services to Ohio residents or people in states where they also have licenses. Professionals who provide online counseling can often only offer services to those who live in the same state where they are licensed.

Selecting a Counseling Service

While online counselors must all be licensed, specific qualifications and areas of expertise can vary between providers. When choosing an online counselor, it is important to ensure the provider has the experience or knowledge required to treat your specific condition. For example, some providers may be more qualified to treat depression, whereas others are experts for substance abuse.

The platform you use to seek an online counselor may match you to a counselor who can best meet your needs. You can also perform a licensure search for the counselor you are matched with and search the internet for his or her work history or their personal website to ensure that the counselor is a good fit for you.

Beyond choosing a counselor who is qualified to meet your unique needs, it is also important to select the level of treatment that is appropriate for you. For example, if you are experiencing only mild mental health concerns, you may be able to improve with a once-a-week video session and occasional text messages with your counselor. On the other hand, if you are struggling with significant distress or serious mental health problems, you may require several sessions per week or daily contact with your therapist. Be sure to consider the level of care you need and select a program that meets this need.

How Does Online Counseling Work for Substance Abuse Treatment

In today’s age of technological advancement, online counseling can be effective for substance abuse treatment. Some providers even offer multiple levels of care. For example, The Recovery Village Telehealth app provides individual and group online counseling sessions at the following levels of care:

  • Partial Hospitalization (PHP) — involves participating in online counseling 5-6 hours per day, six days per week
  • Intensive Outpatient (IOP) — includes 3-5 sessions per week for three hours per day
  • Outpatient — provides a minimum of one group counseling session and one individual session each week

To begin online substance abuse counseling through The Recovery Village Telehealth app, you’ll need access to the internet and a mobile phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Insurance can cover and offset the cost of treatment.

After an initial assessment, clients are matched to a licensed therapist who meets their needs. Once signed in, clients can access appointments, get support and send messages to their therapist.

Complete the online form today to begin your journey toward recovery with online counseling through The Recovery Village.

Novotney, Amy. “A growing wave of online therapy.” American Psychological Association. February 2017. Accessed March 28, 2020.

DeAngelis, Tori. “Practicing distance therapy, legally and ethically.” American Psychological Association. March 2012. Accessed March 28, 2020.

Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage & Family Therapist Board. “Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) or Online/Internet Therapy.” Accessed March 28, 2020.

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