Online Counseling vs Traditional Counseling: Which One Is Right for Me?

Counseling meets you where you are and moves at your pace, to address your unique situation and needs head-on. Teletherapy, or online counseling, and more traditional, in-person counseling methods are both viable mental health treatment options. While the main difference between the two choices is the location, the benefits of counseling can be experienced whether your sessions take place virtually or in person.

Traditional counseling vs online counseling: What’s the difference?

Traditional counseling is what you might think of when you envision therapy: sitting in an office as you converse with a therapist across from you. In-person counseling has the unique benefit of allowing you to speak with your therapist face-to-face. This may help you feel more connected with your therapist, as being in the same room fosters a more comfortable — and comforting — environment.

Visiting a physical location may also be preferred by some, as it helps make a ritual out of therapy: you can carry your challenges with you and unpack them in your therapist’s office.

Online mental health counseling has gained popularity — and necessity — during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has been shown to be just as effective as traditional in-person counseling. It is easier for some of us to discuss painful or scary topics over a video call rather than one-on-one in an office. Teletherapy also enables the democratization of mental health counseling, especially to those of us who could not otherwise afford it or take time off work for in-person sessions.

In contrast to traditional counseling, online counseling takes place virtually. You will receive all of the forms you need to complete online through your patient portal, and your consultation and subsequent sessions will take place through a secure video visit.

Deciding between online vs in-person counseling

Mental health counseling — whether online or in person — delivers incredible benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Finding coping mechanisms for anxiety, depression, addiction and trauma;
  • Confronting and overcoming past traumatic experiences or fears;
  • Openly discussing challenges;
  • Defining goals, both in the short and the long term;
  • Identifying triggers and behaviors interfering with recovery;
  • Developing new skills, including conflict resolution and problem-solving;
  • Improving interpersonal communication and confidence;
  • Recognizing distorted, irrational or self-destructive thinking;
  • Openly and vulnerably discussing your challenges, without worrying about judgement;
  • Receiving guidance from trained professionals;
  • Improving self-confidence, especially when it comes to advocating for yourself;
  • Learning to make positive changes to your frame of mind and way of thinking;
  • Making improvements to your wellbeing and quality of life;
  • Honing and more easily addressing specific issues.

Whether you go to your therapist’s office or log on to a remote session every week, these counseling benefits are always available to you. Treatment modalities are largely the same across the two methods. Cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy and acceptance and commitment therapy can be practiced virtually or in person.

The deciding factor between online counseling and traditional counseling will largely depend on your schedule and your comfort level. If being face-to-face with your therapist will help you feel more connected to the process — allowing you to open up and be vulnerable — traditional therapy might be best for you. If you are not completely comfortable with the idea of speaking with a therapist in person, or if your schedule only allows for virtual sessions on your lunch break or during down time at home, consider exploring online counseling.

Getting started with counseling

Whether you prefer online or traditional in-person counseling, Mazzitti & Sullivan can help. Reach out today at 1-800-809-2925 to get started with the method that works best for your needs.