There are many ways the pandemic has changed the way society approaches online education and counseling, and most have been for the better. When the only option for an individual to see a doctor was virtually or by phone, the healthcare industry recognized that treating someone online could be effective for a segment of the population who were unable to travel, leave their homes, or live in isolated locations. Mental health became an important topic during the Covid-19 lockdowns, so the medical community made mental health support more accessible, convenient, and flexible. Online counseling is an evolving area that has improved the overall mental health of individuals in the United States.
Before the internet, an individual would need to go to their family doctor and be assessed for a mental health issue. They would be prescribed some medication and then referred to a mental health professional. There was much stigma attached to having a mental illness, and because of this, most people would suffer in silence.
Nowadays, mental health is a hot topic, and a lot of resources are available for those who feel they need help, such as specialized online counseling, mental health apps for cell phones or laptops, and many phone lines for those who are suffering a mental health crisis. These platforms connect individuals with licensed therapists and counselors who provide counseling services. They often offer flexible scheduling, personalized treatment plans, and a wide range of therapeutic approaches.
When it comes to the apps that an individual can use on their phones or tablets, there are numerous ones related to mental health available that provide various forms of support, including self-help tools, mood tracking, meditation practices, and coping strategies. These apps make it easy for anyone to download them if they have access to the internet and a mobile device. They are also usually free and can help someone get through a crisis if they cannot find a medical professional available. Crisis hotlines and crisis text lines provide immediate support and intervention during times of distress or emergencies. They are easily accessible and offer confidential assistance to individuals experiencing mental health crises. Many hotlines and text lines operate 24/7.
The internet offers other solutions for those who find it difficult to access in-person mental health support. such as online support groups. These groups are virtual communities where individuals facing similar mental health challenges can connect and share their experiences. They provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to seek advice, receive empathy, and foster a sense of belonging. As they are online, the individual does not need to leave the safety of their home and can enjoy the benefit of group counseling comfortably.
Websites, blogs, and online forums offer educational materials, self-help guides, and resources related to mental health. These resources can provide individuals with valuable information, coping strategies, and tools to manage their mental health effectively. It is important that the individual approach these resources with caution and get a recommendation from someone knowledgeable so they are not bombarded with misinformation.
Another way individuals who are suffering from mental health issues are better able to access care is through telepsychiatry. This allows someone to meet with a psychiatrist remotely through video calls, and enables the client to receive medication management, a diagnosis, and psychiatric treatment from the comfort of their own homes. This service is particularly beneficial for individuals who have limited access to psychiatric services in their local areas.
These online mental health supports aim to bridge the gap in mental health accessibility, providing a range of options that cater to different needs, preferences, and levels of support required. When an individual applies for an Online Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling, they get introduced to and can become part of different types of counseling forums that will enable them to be on top of the current developments in the field. Accredited schools such as St. Bonaventure University offers courses in counseling that enable their graduates to provide exceptional emotional care online and in person.
Convenience and flexibility
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when schools closed and children were forced to learn online, a whole new world of virtual learning and virtual meetings became the norm for a lot of people. With applications like Teams and Zoom, being able to have a private conversation with someone while still being at home is no longer unusual, and some individuals prefer to have the majority of their meetings online.
The convenience and flexibility of virtual counseling sessions mean someone can schedule a session at a time that is convenient and not have to make arrangements to travel to an office or clinic. This type of flexibility also assists those with handicaps that prevent them from traveling, as well as patients in rural areas who may not have access to regular travel. This flexibility allows people to seek help without having to take time off work or school or travel long distances. This also means that those people who did not think they would be able to get mental health support because of their disability or isolated location can now access it from anywhere with an internet connection.
Virtual counseling also helps those who may not have the flexibility of taking a day off work or school and allows them to book an online session that fits in with their personal schedule. These sessions can be done at lunch hour or at another convenient time. This saves lower-income individuals money on transportation and lost wages so they can get the help they need without adding more stressors to their lives. Another upside to virtual sessions is that the individual does not need to explain to their employer or family why they need to take the time off so their privacy can be kept intact. The fear of having someone find out about their mental health struggles and facing possible stigma at home or work makes virtual sessions a much better option.
There are many options available to someone who does not want to drive or take public transportation to a therapist’s office and waste time and money traveling back and forth. Options such as video chats, phone calls or text chats allow therapists to treat more patients and offer a better quality of care to those who ordinarily would not have access to it.
The pandemic shed light on the importance of mental health resources and the availability of therapy for everyone, regardless of who they were. The stigma that once surrounded mental health issues is starting to fade as more people become aware of different afflictions, and more advocates are coming forward with stories about their struggles. Musicians, actors, and other personalities have shared their stories to encourage others to seek help and bring mental health out in the open. Recently, Netflix has developed series on key topics such as Tourette syndrome and depression which are designed to educate and enlighten those who do not have a vast knowledge of these different conditions. People are speaking out and sharing their stories more often, so getting help is not such a big deal that it could lead to being ostracized by society.
Online counseling provides a level of anonymity that can make individuals feel more comfortable seeking help. By communicating with a therapist through a screen or text, individuals can maintain a certain level of privacy and avoid the fear of being recognized or judged by others. This anonymity can help them open up to their therapist and get the valuable care they desperately need. Using technology in this way can also normalize seeking online therapy as it is widely used and accepted.
The ability to access online counseling tools also means that other resources and apps are available that can help individuals manage their own mental health therapy. Mindfulness and meditation apps can help an individual reduce their anxiety and the need to consult with a therapist more often. These tools are also good for preventing anxiety or depression from overwhelming an individual and making them wait to see someone before feeling any relief.
Apps that can be used on smart phones and tablets are especially helpful for those suffering from mental health issues because they can be accessed anywhere due to their portability. These apps often provide techniques to reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and promote relaxation. An example is an individual having immediate access to some breathing exercises while in a stressful situation with the help of an app.
Some apps help track mental health by giving the user the opportunity to record their moods and show them a pattern of behavior in certain situations, triggers they may experience, and what techniques work the best. Sleep apps are also a very important tool as a lack of sleep can exacerbate mental health problems so a sleep or relaxation tool can help improve the sleep of an individual and improve their quality of life. There are other apps that provide white noise tools, soothing sounds, and breathing techniques, which are extremely useful in self-care.
Other tools available to individuals suffering from mental health crises are online therapy platforms that connect individuals with licensed therapists or counselors who provide professional support through video calls, phone calls, or text chats. These platforms offer a range of therapeutic approaches and resources tailored to individual needs. These usually have other tools such as educational resources or links to other resources.
Some apps that are useful in helping an individual promote their own mental health care include tools for stress management that provide breathing techniques and cognitive therapy tips to help cope with daily stressors. Fitness apps are also an excellent resource that offer workout routines or video tutorials to help an individual find a new outlet for their anxiety. Other great apps for emotional self-care include journaling apps that provide a medium for someone to jot down their feelings and track daily achievements.
A crucial component of someone feeling comfortable with their mental health issues is to find a group of people with the same problems. Online group meetings and counseling sessions can help someone feel that they are not alone, and give them an opportunity to connect with others who are struggling. Using an app that provides this helps like-minded individuals provide support for one another and share resources and tips on handling their mental health struggles.
Online counseling provides access to a wider range of mental health professionals and specialists. This is particularly beneficial for individuals seeking specialized care or therapy for specific mental health conditions. Online support removes barriers to getting help from a specialist and provides more time for therapy sessions. If a therapist can see many patients online in a much shorter period of time, then online tools allow for a wider range of individuals to be helped. These platforms also remove the need for office space or having to commute, so specialists also save time and see more patients. This also allows them to dedicate more time to each patient than if they were rushing from location to location.
Online mental health platforms can pool specialists from various locations, allowing for better resource allocation. By leveraging technology and online platforms, specialists can efficiently manage their caseloads and provide services to a larger number of individuals. This reduces wait times for appointments, helping individuals access specialized care more promptly. These platforms can also facilitate collaboration and consultation among specialists. They can easily connect with other professionals, share knowledge, seek guidance, and discuss complex cases. This collaboration enhances their ability to provide specialized care by drawing on collective expertise and contributing to ongoing professional development.
Continuity of care
One problem with in-person treatment sessions is what happens when either the patient or the therapist relocates and there is no continuity of care. This can derail the progress made with therapy and can have devastating effects. Online counseling ensures continuity of care, eliminating the barriers when clients relocate or have difficulty attending in-person sessions. It allows individuals to maintain their therapeutic relationships with their counselors, promoting a consistent approach to their mental health care.
Online mental health supports remove many barriers to accessing care, such as geographical distance, lack of transportation, or limited availability of local providers. This improved access ensures that individuals can consistently receive the care they need without interruptions. They offer flexibility in scheduling, allowing individuals to have virtual sessions at a time that works best for them. This flexibility reduces the likelihood of missed appointments and enhances continuity of care by ensuring regular engagement with the mental health professional.
These platforms also allow for seamless transitions between different levels of care or different specialists. For example, individuals can transition from intensive therapy to ongoing outpatient care, or easily continue treatment when relocating to a different geographic area. Online continuity of care ensures that progress and treatment plans are maintained even during these transitions. The mental health team can communicate and share information virtually, so they make sure they are treating patients consistently. This also helps to avoid gaps in healthcare services and prevents any duplication.
With online mental health support, individuals often have access to their digital health records, including session notes, treatment plans, and progress reports. This access allows individuals to stay informed and actively participate in their care, even if they switch providers or need to seek care from different specialists. This kind of support often provides additional resources such as educational materials, self-help tools, and self-guided exercises that individuals can access in between sessions. These resources support ongoing self-care and provide continuity of support even when face-to-face sessions are not immediately available. This is so important because for some people, a break in their routine or gap in their therapy can have devastating consequences, so continuity of care is crucial in treating serious mental health issues.
Mental health is one area that has benefited from the proliferation of online meeting platforms and applications. By offering online treatments to individuals in remote areas or who are unable to travel, a whole segment of the population is now able to access the mental health care that they need. The many mental health apps such as meditation, mindfulness, sleep and relaxation, as well as others, give those who need daily support with their mental health tools for reducing anxiety. While there is still a place in the mental health community for in-person sessions, virtual appointments have opened up new opportunities to those who really need the help.