When we think of going to therapy, most of us have this image of lying on a sofa and talking to someone that looks very similar to Sigmund Freud. He takes notes, and from time to time, he says things like "And how does that make you feel?" or "Tell me more about your relationship with your mother."
As the stigma around mental health services such as psychotherapy and counselling is beginning to fade, we're learning more about what psychotherapy means and how it can benefit us. At this point, most of us have at least a couple of friends that have had experience with therapy. Perhaps you're reading this article because you have tried traditional face-to-face therapy in the past, but you're not quite sure whether telephone counselling will be as effective or whether it's the right choice for you.
This is understandable. When starting any form of therapy, there will be a certain degree of uncertainty and anxiety. The truth is that phone therapy is not that much different from traditional therapy and has been around for quite some time. Mental health hotlines became widely available in the 60s and nowadays counselling via phone remains popular both in crisis interventions as well as a way for therapists to communicate with their clients when distance and scheduling differences pose a challenge.
To help you decide whether telephone counselling is right for you, let's take a look at the pros and cons.
Advantages of telephone counselling
- Convenient – There are many reasons why people put off therapy, and one of those reasons is distance. Maybe you live in a remote area where you can't find that many mental health professionals within reasonable distance and your work schedule doesn't allow for long commutes once or twice every week. With telephone counselling, you have more options because you're no longer limited by availability in your area and you also save time because you don't have to commute to the counsellor's office.
- Accessibility – People with disabilities might find it particularly difficult to go to a counsellors office even if they have a wide range of options in their area because they have to rely on others to take them there. Here, we should also mention that telephone counselling can be a great choice for people with social anxiety and agoraphobia who are more likely to avoid going to therapy because of their symptoms.
- Available 24/7 – Another advantage of telephone counselling is that it's available 24/7. As many of us know, sometimes the problem isn't distance but scheduling. Perhaps you have a very demanding job or small kids, making it very difficult to carve out the time to commute and see a therapist every week. With telephone counselling you can get the help you need in a timeframe that suits you.
Disadvantages of telephone counselling
- Privacy – If you go to a counsellor's office for face-to-face sessions, they're the ones that ensure privacy. With telephone counselling, you have to find a time and place where you can speak freely. This can be difficult if you live with other people.
- Body language – Many people who opt for telephone counselling find that they feel more at ease because the counsellor can't see them and they can attend the sessions from the comfort of their own homes. On the other hand, the fact that your counsellor can't see you also means that they can't observe your body language. You'll have to verbalize your feelings more since through this medium they can only take cues from your tone of voice.