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How effective are online and tele-counseling?

25 Sep 2016

Telephonic and online counselling is fast becoming an approach to counseling and seeking mental health care and support. As its use is getting popular and is growing at a rapid pace, the efficiency of telephonic and online counselling is often questioned.

An insight into the pros and cons of this dominant and easy method of getting psychological help might answer the question of how effective it is.

To begin with, we will look into telephonic counseling. Research has proved to be in its favour. Going through past studies confirms that the practice of telephonic counseling for general mental health care is efficient as well as effective.

A study published in the April Journal of Counseling Psychology (Volume 49, Number 2) shows desirable results.

In the study, telephonic counseling was provided free of cost to the employees of three large and many smaller companies in the United States, Canada and parts of Mexico. The service was rendered to their family members as well who could call on a toll-free number and access tele-counselling.

Four counseling sessions were given to most of the callers, and a non-random sample of adult callers was surveyed over a period of three weeks.

An envelope containing questionnaires was mailed to the callers after a minimum of one 30-minute phone session. It also contained the Consumer Reports Annual Questionnaire (CRAQ), asking clients to rate their specific improvement and satisfaction, and also the global improvement owing to telephone counseling. After this, the researchers compared the effectiveness of telephone counselling with face-to-face counseling, which is the more prevalent one.

The results of the study showed that telephone counseling was helpful and adequate.68 per cent of a total of 186 respondents felt extremely satisfied and 53 per cent reported feeling somewhat better after counseling.

The area where telephonic counseling did not work as much as face-to-face counseling was where the persons said they felt very poorly;  31% for the former compared with 54% for the latter, in the situation of the respondents who reported feeling very unwell.

As far as online counseling is concerned, the results are much better.

A study from University of Zurich proves the popularity and effectiveness of online therapy sessions. Under this study, 6 therapists were asked to treat 62 patients, divided into two groups, suffering from moderate depression. One group received face-to-face therapy while the other got online therapy, with 8 sessions in total.

The results showed that 51% of online therapy patients were treated completely against the 50% of the other group. The recovery rates were also higher.

At the end of the study, 57 per cent of patients who underwent online treatment were free of depression, compared to 42 per cent of those who had traditional therapy.

The reason behind this was cited to the paper trail, which means that the patients could re-read the correspondence with their therapist. They could go through it gain and remember the advice better than the ones in face-to-face therapy.

The researches having presented the success of telephone and online counselling, their advantages are listed below.

·  These methods of counselling are less expensive; economical for both therapist and the client.

·  They are easily accessible; to people in remote areas and to people with disabilities with lesser inconvenience.

·  The patients are more comfortable and it is more convenient with respect to timing.

·  This approach is helpful for people having problem in face-to-face conversations and those suffering from social phobias, agoraphobias or anxiety disorders

·  There are several methods to communicate- chat sessions, e-mails, video conferencing, phone calls, and texts.

·  Contributes to eliminating the problem of social stigma around mental health care.

·   Anonymity of the patient can be ensured.

·   No distractions of office, clothes and physical appearance in phone calls and online sessions.

Some of the disadvantages may be the absence of verbal and non-verbal cues in the online therapy, not suitable for chronic depression and other severe cases, technological faults and difficulties, legal and regulatory issues, and concerns of credibility of the therapist.

However, the positive side of online and telephone counselling outweighs the negative one. To add to it, research has established that this approach is equally and sometimes more effective in catering to the psychological needs of the population.


Tags: Online Counseling, Tele counseling