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Online Depression Counseling for the Disabled


Updated November 29, 2012

Online Depression Counseling for the Disabled

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Dmccale @Dreamstime.com

Online depression counseling is one way for patients with disabilities to connect with outside help for depression. Coping with any type of chronic illness or disability introduces a great deal of emotional stress into a person’s life. There is a strong link between stress , chronic illness, and depression, and it should be addressed by a physician during the treatment of any disability.

A Diagnosis of Depression

Depression itself is a serious medical condition that should be diagnosed and treated by an appropriate medical professional. The initial diagnosis must be done face to face with a certified professional, especially if medication will be prescribed. After the initial diagnosis, a medical professional will determine whether online counseling can be used in the treatment of depression.

Types of Depression Counseling

There are a variety of medications and counseling methods used for treating depression. One of the newest treatment options is online depression counseling, sometimes referred to as “e-therapy”. Online depression counseling involves Internet mediated communication between the patient and mental health professionals. It can be conducted via live chat or e-mail 24 hours a day. As with any type of medical treatment, there are a variety of advantages and disadvantages associated with online depression counseling.

Other forms of counseling include group counseling and individual counseling in person, which are done under the guidance of a professional. Typically, these meetings are held at a counselor's office to ensure the privacy of the individual.

Benefits of Online Counseling

Online depression counseling appeals to many patients because they can access counseling support any time they need it. Other patients enjoy the anonymous nature of the process. To some patients, it is easier to communicate openly via the Internet than in a face-to-face counseling situation. Other patients value the anonymity that stems from the fact that they won’t be seen arriving at or leaving from the office of a mental health professional.

The ease of access to online depression counseling can be of particular benefit patients with disabilities because they can participate in online depression counseling from the comfort of their own homes. They do not have to worry about how they will get to their counseling session or scheduling it around taking medications that may inhibit their ability to drive. There are potential financial advantages as well. In many cases, online depression counseling may be less expensive than live counseling, as some counselors can work from home and not work from an office. This allows counselors to charge less per session.

Disadvantages of Online Counseling

Some people question whether or not legitimate, effective psychotherapy can be conducted via Internet-mediated communication. A major disadvantage of online depression counseling is the lack of non-verbal communication. Therapists are not able to observe their patients’ body language during the counseling session, and much meaning is traditionally conveyed between patient and therapist via non-verbal communication.

Additionally, many people have a difficult time expressing themselves in writing, and may have trouble communicating with each other via e-mail or live chat. Some people simply find writing to be physically difficult, while others have poor writing skills. The anonymity that makes some patients feel more comfortable participating in online depression counseling also introduces an element of risk to the process.

Verification of Counselors

Just as the therapist may not know the identity of the patient, the patient also doesn’t necessarily know the true identity or credentials of the mental health professional from whom her or she is seeking counseling if they haven’t met in person first. There are a variety of online counseling companies and organizations that screen online counselors to verify proper licensing and credentialing. Individuals who choose to participate in online depression counseling should be diligent in verifying that they are in fact, working with legitimate mental health providers.

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