Online and Phone Counseling: the New “Talk Therapy”

“Talk Therapy” was a revolutionary idea when launched by Sigmund Freud at the turn of the 20th century. This idea postulated that therapists could sit down face-to-face with patients, talk to them about problematic issues, and cure them of depression and anxiety. Move well into the 20th century when “The Jetson’s” television cartoon featured characters communicating with one another via a television screen (ala today’s “Skype”). I remember thinking, “Right. As if that’s going to happen!” But look where we are now, at the turn of the 21st century. Advanced technology is championing a new type of Talk Therapy: phone and online counseling.

Phone Counseling is Effective Therapy

In a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, Lynn Bufka, Assistant Executive Director, Practice Research and Policy at the American Psychological Association, suggests that phone and online, or Skype, counseling can be a useful strategy. Scientists in the study found that more people dropped out of treatment, usually in the first five weeks, when they went to see their therapist face-to-face instead of talking to their therapist over the phone.

My experience at the Men’s Resource Center has shown that men, in particular, can struggle with accessing counseling as it may go against their traditional beliefs about masculinity; beliefs that say “real men make it on their own and the ones who don’t are weak.” For such men, phone and online counseling can be a painless and confidential means of seeking help. Such counseling may also serve as a triage into in-person counseling for the anxious or reluctant client. A phone or online counselor can help provide initial crisis management while working to encourage in-person counseling for clients whose issues would be better addressed face-to-face.

Phone and online counseling also benefit those who live in rural communities whose access to experts is restricted by geography. With phone and online counseling services, they are only a mouse click or a speed-dial away from the professional help they need. They no longer have to plan for long drives and can schedule sessions from the comfort of their home or office at a time that is convenient to them. Some clients in busy urban areas may wish to schedule phone or online counseling sessions merely to save time by avoiding drives across town.

Reach More Clients with Phone Counseling

I’m not advocating one type of counseling over the other. I believe that in-person Talk Therapy cures and that phone and online counseling can as well. Just think, if phone and online counseling weren’t available, some people might never access counseling services or, if limited to in-person services, would drop out as the aforementioned research reveals. It doesn’t have to be relegated to a “if you have to” or “another sign of interpersonal decay in this age of depersonalized technology.” As the 12-step recovery program states, “It can be the next right step” for particular clients in certain situations. My advice – don’t just hang your shingle. Consider opening up your phone line, and turning your computer on to this 21st century form of Talk Therapy.