Best Online Counseling for Couples
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We live an age where technology is continually finding applications in intimate spaces, and online counseling for couples is no exception. Online relationship counseling features aspects similar to traditional couples’ counseling, namely a sounding board for relationship issues and the trusted expertise of a licensed therapist. However, among the draws to the online couples’ counseling model are convenience and affordability relative to office therapy sessions.
What Is Online Couples Counseling?
As couples go about their daily lives, both together and as individuals, they experience stressful situations that impact the quality of their relationship. These issues can range from family in-fighting, difficulties in parenting, fears of infidelity, financial troubles, and more. Online couples counseling provides confidential couples’ therapy in a convenient, web-based format. Real-time sessions with experienced and professional counselors are delivered through a variety of digital mediums, including phone calls, face to face video chat, and live chat, and many have their own corresponding mobile apps.
Who Is It For?
Online counseling for couples is for couples of any stage, from dating to marriage, who have identified that their relationship contains serious issues, yet have a desire to address these relationship issues and restore their mutual peace and harmony.
When Is The Right Time to Start?
Counseling for couples, regardless of whether delivered through an online platform or in a licensed therapist’s office, is much like preventive medicine for couples. It should be seen not as a means of crisis mitigation, but more so as a way to educate couples in creating healthy conflict resolution habits. Couples’ counseling should begin as soon as a couple feels an overwhelming disconnect in their relationship.
Addressing the root causes of relationship issues faced by couples sooner than later is the best way to ensure that these issues are met headfirst and are not allowed to spiral into larger, more complex issues.
Accessibility and Convenience
With numerous providers now inhabiting the digital mental health space, those seeking online counseling for couples have more options than ever before when it comes to selecting a service and only need a stable internet connection to get started. Couples can choose a therapy service provider based on criteria that matter to them, such as scheduling availability, types of relationship issues served, format of sessions, and program cost. Many providers offer scheduling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are committed to accommodating all patient availabilities. Since the online conference call format removes the need for both couples to physically meet at a designated location, even couples in long-distance relationships can seek the help of a licensed therapist provided that they are able to agree to a virtual meeting time.
Additionally, since many online providers document all sessions on a centralized medium such as an app or a website, couples in therapy can conveniently review at their leisure the progress they have made while working with their selected counselor, along with the recommendations provided to them.
Affordability of Couples Counseling
Conventional therapy sessions cost more than the numbers on the therapist’s invoice; unstated are the time and monetary costs of planning a time to meet and physically commuting as a couple to the therapist’s office. Even in the event that a couple is lucky enough to have health insurance, they still may be required to engage in a form of cost sharing with their insurer, including but not limited to co-pay.
On the provider end, online therapy service providers incur far fewer overhead costs than traditional office-based therapists and are thus able to price their services fairly and competitively. Similar to their patients, many therapists who work for online provider networks even work from their own home offices. It is for this reason that online sessions have become a far more attractive economical option for couples’ therapy; even without insurance, the plans and services offered by online providers often come at a fraction of expected cost and can be incorporated with ease into the couple’s existing budget.
Talking about personal matters is already highly stressful for any couple in distress, and some individuals with existing mental health issues may not feel totally comfortable being emotionally open with a complete stranger in the unfamiliar, sterile setting of a doctor’s office. Even though the climate toward mental health care has taken a positive turn in contemporary times, there is still a prevailing stigma regarding therapy that can cross into sensitive cultural lines.
Online counseling for couples provides a way for professional counselors and couples to connect from the comfort and privacy of the couples’ home. The selection of available formats for therapy allow the couple to choose a method that works for their communication and personality style; for instance, a couple that requires more time to mull over heavier and more intense topics may choose a provider with an unlimited text messaging option over face to face video conferencing if they need the space needed to reflect before responding to their counselor.
Online vs. In-Person
With options to suit all schedules, communication preferences, and budgets, online counseling for couples affords couples greater freedom of choice in seeking a therapy service that accommodates all their needs. It is a great option for couples who work during standard business hours and would be forced to schedule sessions after work or during the weekend, couples who otherwise have reservations about seeking therapy, or for couples who otherwise would not have access to therapy service. Couples are able to exert full control over each step of the process, from platform to method of delivery to payment plan.
In-person couples’ counseling, on the other hand, is much more structured and involves the couple coordinating time at a licensed therapist’s office. Although virtual interfacing is a viable and convenient alternative that research studies still prove to be efficacious, it cannot replicate bodily cues, such as body language and tone, that can be incredibly useful in analyzing the dynamic between a couple.
How Does It Work?
The online counseling for couples process starts for some with a query-led approach whereby a couple submits a statement of their relationship issues to the provider. The provider then works on the back end to match the couple with a trusted counselor with whom they schedule their initial intake appointment.
An initial intake session between the licensed therapist and the couple marks the first point of contact in the online counseling for couples process. The session takes place via phone calls, face to face video chat, or live chat, depending on the provider. It is a two-sided assessment of counselor and patient and marks their first opportunity to build an online relationship. The counselor assigned to the couple is given the chance to assess the couple as individuals, listen to the issues that have resulted in the need for professional help, and make notes on their dynamic between each other. The couple also is able to take their own inventory of their appointed mental health specialist to determine if he or she is a good fit for their style and their needs.
Once that modicum of trust, comfort, and compatibility have been reached, the couples’ counseling sessions begin. Depending on the issues at hand and the couple’s goals in seeking therapy, counseling sessions can last anywhere from a few sessions to a working relationship with the counselor that spans months or even years.
How to Choose the Best Online Counselor
Choosing an online counselor is a personal matter that requires careful thought and consideration on the part of the couple.
The credibility of an online licensed therapist goes beyond the provider’s educational credentials. Couples are encouraged to select a professional counselor who not only has credentials that are on par with the industry standard, but also specializes in online counseling for specific issues that the couple actively faces, such as communication troubles and loss of sexual desire. The chosen licensed professional should possess a proven track record in working with similar clients and issues.
Pay close attention to the professional member organizations of which the therapist is a member; these designations often reflect the disciplines in which the therapist has chosen to further their education and in turn show a vested interest in the discipline.
Research Your Therapist
Your online therapist is an individual whom you and your partner are entrusting to help with some of the most intimate details of your lives as a couple. Ensure that you are all a good personality fit for each other by researching aspects of their online presence that help build the story of an individual, such as online pages and blog posts. If using a platform that matches on the back end, feel free to ask the support agent for their opinion on whether the counselor is a good fit.
Format of Sessions
Do you as a couple feel that face to face video conferencing is the most effective way to communicate your relationship issues with a trusted licensed therapist? Would you or your partner feel more comfortable utilizing a messaging platform that allows better control of the pace of interactions with your counselor? Consider your preferred communication style, along with your partner’s, and balance these against the provider’s available options and platforms.
Although many online counseling services for couples already offer competitive pricing, some networks are still able to take insurance. Take stock of your current insurance and determine whether you will be able to use insurance to cover some or all of the costs of couples’ therapy. If coverage through insurance is not an option, ensure that you understand the payment plans available and factor these into your final decision.
Word of Mouth
Even in a digital age, there is still tremendous value in leveraging an existing network of friends and family to ask whether these trusted individuals can recommend options that have worked for them.