Is Online Counseling Effective?

Sometimes when you need to talk to a therapist, life gets in the way. You could be so busy that you only have time during your lunch hour. Or, there could be reasons why you can’t easily leave the house, such as childcare issues or the current lockdown restrictions because of COVID-19. Online counseling is an obvious solution — but if you’re like anyone else, you might be wondering, does it really work?

In a word, yes. Several studies have shown that online counseling is just as effective as in-person therapy.

A quick look at the science behind online counseling

Here’s what some of the research says about the online treatment of several disorders:

  • One study of online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) concluded that “computer therapy for anxiety and depression disorders is effective, acceptable and practical.”
  • Research shows that telephone-administered psychotherapy can significantly reduce depressive symptoms.1
  • A study of 128 patients diagnosed with bulimia nervosa found that the behavioral therapy (CBT) they received via telemedicine lowered their frequency of binging and purging at the same rate as CBT that was done face-to-face.
  • Another group of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who went through prolonged exposure therapy showed equal improvement whether therapy was done in-person or via home-based telehealth.

Of course, all of this assumes that your therapist is skilled, knowledgeable, and trustworthy.

Finding a qualified practitioner is key

Online counseling won’t be as effective if you don’t work with someone who is a licensed professional. Depending on where you seek help, it could be easy for someone lacking sufficient education or training to offer counseling services online.

So when you’re looking for a therapist for online counseling, be sure to check into their credentials. At Orange County Health Psychologists, 100% of our providers are not only licensed practitioners, but have years of clinical experience in treating a variety of conditions. You’ll not only find a therapist you can trust, but someone who is an expert in your specific area of need.

Other ways to make online counseling more effective

Online counseling definitely works, but it helps if you bring a slightly different set of expectations to the process for best results. Since you’ll be communicating through phone or video chat, keep these tips in mind as you begin online counseling.

Give yourself a little more time to build rapport with your therapist. Most likely, online counseling is new for you… as it is for most people! As you chat with your therapist for the first time online, you might even feel a little more nervous than you would in person, simply because the format is unfamiliar. This is very common and to be expected. So, you might want to allow a little more time to allow your feelings to settle before making a judgment one way or the other.

Imagine you and your therapist are in the same room. Try not to dwell on the fact that you’re chatting over video or phone. Instead, allow yourself to share as you would in person. Your therapist is every bit as interested and engaged as they would be in a traditional session, and is eager to foster a good connection and relationship with you.

Stay connected in more ways than one. With an online counseling relationship, you may do certain things more intuitively, like share interesting articles or helpful videos that you can discuss at your next session. Don’t be afraid to let your therapist into a little bit of your “digital world” as a way for the two of you to connect and exchange ideas.

Ready to start your online counseling journey?

Especially during this time of uncertainty, we need to respond mindfully by not only giving others support, but reaching out when we need it ourselves. As they say, every journey starts by taking the first step — and we’re happy to be there when you do.

Give us a call today at 949.528.6300 to explore your online counseling options. Our practice manager, Jennifer Koran, will put you right at ease and suggest the right professionals from our team who would be the best fit for you. Or, simply send us an email at We look forward to seeing you!

—Written by Ekua Hagan for Orange County Health Psychologists

1Mohr, D., Vella, L, Hart, S., Heckman, T., Simon, G. The Effect of Telephone-Administered Psychotherapy on Symptoms of Depression and Attrition: A Meta-Analysis. National Institutes of Health. Clin Psychol (New York). 2008; 15(3): 243–253. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2850.2008.00134.x.

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