Remote counselling is any counselling which isn’t given face to face, normally remote counselling is telephone or video call. However there has been a rise in text counselling too. Remote counselling has only really been introduced into the mental health sector in the recent past, obviously so, we have only really had the reliable technology needed be universally available in the past 15 years or so. But is remote counselling as effective as traditional face to face appointments?
Most talking therapies such as Talking Changes and CBT are only available for 6 to 12 sessions, a problem which leaves the client often feeling under pressure to improve and lost/abandoned when the sessions come to an end. Combined with the long waiting times for support more and more people are seeking out private therapists. Remote counselling usually comes with a much sorter waiting list just by its nature, patients can also choose from a much wider pool of therapists outside of their local area. This can help lower cost and find the lowest waiting time. The British Medical Association recently warned patients routinely wait over six months for talking therapies for low mood and negative thoughts. Even then, of all suicide rates recorded an average of 24% were in confirmed contact with primary mental health services in the year before death. When you take this into consideration, it’s easier to see how remote services begin to be more appealing.
In a world where mental health advocacy is on the rise and the stigma which accompanies it is at an all time low, the sector is having to keep up with these changing times. The decline of negative stigma allows for more people to reach out for help which adds to the already crushing burden on our health services. Some companies have also rolled out the use of online CBT which often doesn’t even include another person. It’s an online programme much like small online educational courses. Perhaps this is one stage too far, removing the need for a therapist completely but innovation has to be made to accommodate larger numbers.
When peoples health becomes reliant on the technology they have at their disposal we have to also consider the effects of digital poverty. Not just when looking at remote therapy but all health services. Many GP surgeries now have a mounted touch screen to check you in on your arrival, apps to book appointments and request repeat prescriptions and even the ability to receive photographs prior to appointments. The internet is also commonly used for researching symptoms, learning more about diagnoses and find peers for support. A household living in digital poverty then does not have the equal access to care which the NHS set out to achieve. Digital poverty is the inability to interact with the online world fully, where when and how an individual needs to. But how can we combat the effects digital poverty has on individuals access to health care?
One way to look at how to ensure no one is left behind by digital poverty is to encourage those who can use digital services to use them. Different people may need different services and some people will never use digital services themselves directly but will benefit from others using digital services and freeing resources to help them. The NHS also acknowledges that those with the greatest health needs are also the most at risk of being left behind and building digital services must keep this in mind, ensuring the highest levels of accessibility wherever possible.
If you are interested in learning more or starting remote counselling via telephone and Zoom take a look at the “Counselling” page for more information.