It's hard not to notice the huge growth in the use of technology for Counselling. Whether it's texting, instant message, Zoom calls or emails, the drive to use technology has been switft and relentless. So why has technology grown so much in Counselling?
In 2021 over $2.4 billiion was invested in technology for mental health. That is a whopping investment. Technology companies realised during the pandemic that there would be a massive need for mental health services after the Pandemic and that there would be a change in the way that these services are delivered, so they went in big with investment. New online counselling firms seem to appear every day. I am not going to name any firms but I'm sure you are aware of a few and may have even tried talking to a Counsellor on one of the platforms.
Why do people use online Counselling?
Peoples lives are busier now and sometimes technology based Counselling can suit busy lives. It's much easier to have a Zoom call than to travel to a Counsellors consulting room. Potentially, online Counselling can be cheaper for both the Client and the Counsellor. No room rental, no travel, it all adds up to big savings in time and money.
What does Technology bring to Counselling
The main benefit of technology is the convenience it offers. It's so easy. Easy for the client as they just need to search in one place for a Counsellor, not various websites. The Client also knows that the Counsellor would have been through a selection process to work for any of the online agencies you can find. This doesn't guarantee a good Counsellor, but it gives the client some reassurance. If you don't like your Counsellor, you just tell the firm and they allocate a new Counsellor. Easy. From the Counsellor perspective, there is the advantage of regular work, payments are managed, no marketing costs and you just turn up to speak to Clients, nothing else.
Advantages and Disadvantages
So it all sound great, right? There are some clear advantages for both the Client and the Counsellor. Convenience, ease of use are the main advantages. But what are the disadvantages? For the Client the main disadavantage is that there isn't an option for face to face counselling, which can be vital for some Clients. Sometimes online is all you need but online sometimes isn't enough and not all Clients have acccess to a safe confidential space at home. What is you're a victim of domestic abuse. Do you really want to have that conversation with your abuser in the next room? These are all situations to think about when starting a Counselling journey. One big positive, is that Online counselling can be a gateway for some Clients, it eases them into the Counselling process. They may start with Online and then decide Face to Face counselling is really the route they want to take.
What does it mean for Counselling and Counsellors
As you'd expect, some Counsellors are completely on board and others are completely against technology driven counselling. Me, I'm in the middle. I personally wouldn't work for an online agency, primarily because I have enough clients not to use an agency for work, but who knows, that may change in the future. My one big concern about the advent of technology is the pay and conditions are not what many Counsellors expect for the counselling profession. It's expensive to train to be a Counsellor and costs associated when you are fully trained, are also high. On various technology platforms, Counsellors are paid way less then if they were in private practise and there is the risk that the counselling profession could develop into a 'gig' economy, solely driven by profit, which isn't good for any of us. You can then end up with 'burnt out' Counsellors, working for low wages and not being fully present for their Clients, which isn't good for any of us. Going forward I think there is a place for both technology platforms and Face to face counselling, it largely depends on where you are in your career and personally. Not all Counsellors can afford to set themselves up in private practive. There could be a split with deeper client issues being treated with Face to face counselling and less severe issues, staying online. That's my prediction. What is yours?
Take care for now x