Looking for online counselling or online therapy in Singapore?
Online counselling is not new, though there has been an explosion of interest in online counselling in the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Counselling via telehealth has typically allowed mental health services to become more accessible to people, such as individuals with difficulties moving around, living in remote areas, or running busy schedules. During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, online counselling made it possible for individuals to still continue to receive essential mental health services.
Some individuals find online therapy to work better for them as compared to in-person therapy sessions, perhaps due to the comforts of being at home. If you are apprehensive about the idea of seeking professional help, online counselling may make it easier for you to take the first step.
Benefits of Online Counselling
Research has found that online therapy can be equally as effective as in-person therapy sessions.
A research study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that online cognitive behavioural therapy was effective in treating anxiety disorders (1), while another study found that online treatment for depression was equally as effective as in-person therapy (2). A 2018 study in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders found that online cognitive behavioural therapy was equally as effective as in-person treatment for major depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder (3).
Other benefits of online counselling are:
- Decreased travelling time and costs
- Increased comfort from having sessions from the familiarity of your home
- More flexibility with scheduling
- More consistent sessions
Potential Risks and Drawbacks of Online Counselling
While online therapy can be equally as effective, it may not be suitable for everybody.
Online counselling is not suitable for individuals who are:
- Currently experiencing a crisis
- Experiencing severe or long-standing mental health issues
- Experiencing psychosis such as hallucinations, paranoia or delusions
- Engaging in excessively risky behaviour such as heavy alcohol or drug use
If you are experiencing severe or long-standing mental health issues, you are recommended to seek in-person psychological support. If you or someone that you know is in a crisis, please call the SOS hotline (1800 221 4444) or head to the nearest emergency centre.
3 Tips for a Successful Online Counselling Session
01 | Create intentional time and space for the session
While the convenience makes it easy for us to jump in on a call with our therapist just like another one of our work or social calls, it can be helpful for us to take a few moments to create intentional time and space for the session.
Think about creating your own rituals around having therapy sessions. Some suggestions are making a cup of tea to sip during the session, lighting a candle, or taking a few quiet moments to pause before the session. After the session, it would also be good to take a few quiet moments to process the session before stepping back into the hustle and bustle of your everyday life.
02 | Set up the environment
Having therapy in the comforts of our home can make a big difference to the therapy experience for some of us. Here are some suggestions on how to set up your environment to have a successful session:
- Find a comfortable, private space that you will be undisturbed for the duration of the session.
- Make sure that you are located in an area that has stable internet connection and test out your camera and microphone before the session.
- To ensure privacy during the session, it is recommended that you use headphones and place an electronic device with a white noise app at the entrance of your door.
- Make sure that your device is placed such that your face is visible and in the middle of the screen so that your counsellor can make “eye contact” with you.
03 | Be descriptive in expressing how you are feeling
It can be more difficult for your counsellor to read your facial expressions and bodily cues from the other side of the screen.
Therefore, it might be helpful to express explicitly how you are feeling to your counsellor. For instance, you may want to say, “I am feeling very anxious right now”, or “My hands are shaking and I can feel my heart beating rapidly in my chest.” This practice of naming your emotions and bodily sensations is good for self-awareness, and also helps your counsellor become aware of your emotional state.
- Nordgren, L. B., Hedman, E., Etienne, J., Bodin, J., Kadowaki, Å., StinaEriksson, . . . Carlbring, P. (2014, August). Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of individually tailored Internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety disorders in a primary care population: A randomized controlled trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 1-11.
- Wagner, B., Horn, A. B., & Maercker, A. (2014, January). Internet-based versus face-to-face cognitive-behavioral intervention for depression: A randomized controlled non-inferiority trial. Journal of Affective Disorders, 113-121.
- Andrewsa, G., Basub, A., Cuijpers, P., Craskee, M. G., McEvoy, P., English, C. L., & Newby, J. M. (2018, April). Computer therapy for the anxiety and depression disorders is effective, acceptable and practical health care: An updated meta-analysis. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 70-78.