online vs traditional counseling

So, you’ve thought about seeing a therapist for a while now and have decided to take the plunge. Congratulations! We are here to help. The next thing for you to consider is the means you want to use for your therapy sessions: online counseling vs. traditional counseling.

We offer both styles of therapy at Orange County Health Psychologists and are happy to explain each. These two modes of counseling are equally as effective, but they do have differences. Once you discover the ins and outs of each, you might decide that one of them is better suited for your needs.

Here’s a look at how online and traditional counseling stack up against each other in a few key areas. Once you have an idea of which direction you want to go — or if you still have questions — give us a call at 949.528.6300 and we can help you further.

Finding a therapist

When it comes to counseling, the first step to success is finding the right therapist.

With online counseling, you’ll have many more possibilities to choose from, since you won’t be limited by location. Assuming your provider can legally practice in your state, you can choose from a wider range of therapists to find one who specializes in your area of need.

For traditional therapy, on the other hand, you’ll want to find a provider within a reasonable traveling distance of your home.

Whichever means of therapy you pursue, you can locate a therapist using online search methods, or ask your personal network of friends, family, and acquaintances for help or recommendations. This process may take longer, but may ultimately make you feel more comfortable with your therapist.

Distance

Obviously there’s no distance to travel if you’re seeing an online counselor, whereas if you see a traditional one, you’d have to drive to their office. But does this matter?

The answer partly depends on your personality and the type of relationship you want to have with your therapist. If you find a therapist through a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or colleague, some might find this level of connection more reassuring.

Others, however, might feel a recommended therapist is “too close for comfort” and want to maintain a stronger boundary. In that case, an online counselor who is outside of your area with no mutual connections might make more sense.

Communication

Whether you choose online or traditional counseling, communication with your therapist could be slightly different.

If you’re in online counseling, the comfort and familiarity of your surroundings might help you to open up more easily.

In-person communication during a traditional counseling session, by contrast, will allow you to see your therapist’s body language as you interact. If you tend to rely heavily on visual means of expression when you communicate, traditional counseling may give you a better sense of your therapist and help you feel like you’re truly heard.

Efficacy

Online counseling and traditional counseling are equally as effective in treating most conditions. Several studies in recent years have shown online counseling to be particularly successful at treating anxiety and depression as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Also, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been studied in use online and found to be an effective alternative to face-to-face therapy.

That being said, traditional therapy is still recommended in cases of severe psychosis, multiple conditions, and crisis situations. (Note: If you are feeling suicidal and need help immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255.)

Online or traditional counseling? Ultimately, it’s up to you

As you can see, both styles of counseling are beneficial; it really just depends on what you need and how you want to approach your relationship with your therapist. There is no wrong choice.

You can also try it one way and, if it doesn’t work for you, try the other. Our team is here to help support your decision by answering any questions you have and recommending a therapist from our team who specializes in what you’re looking for. To find out how we can help you, give us a call at 949.528.6300 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We’re eager to talk to you.

—Written by Ekua Hagan for Orange County Health Psychologists