Why Wasn't Online Therapy An Option?
Recently I came across a Reddit thread where an individual was outraged that they had been rejected (their word, not mine) by a popular online counseling provider. Naturally, many of the comments were of shock and bewilderment. As I skimmed the comments I was disheartened as I understood the perspective of the provider but I also empathized with the perspective of the individual.
Being a therapist, I have the privilege of understanding both sides of the coin:
You are seeking help. It hard enough to muster up the courage to reach out without being told to look elsewhere. The “rejection” of a therapist is likely on the top 10 list of worst rejections. When feeling vulnerable the absolute last thing you wish to hear is “no.” No matter how eloquently it may be phrased. This hurt. Hurt led to confusion. Which erupted in the secondary emotion of anger. How dare the person whose literal job is to help me with feelings turn their back on me?
The Online Counseling Provider:
The provider had some concern about the person’s welfare. Either the person presented a concern not easily managed by online services or exhibited some risk of harm. Providers know that harm is more than suicidal ideation; The Average Joe does not. The online provider may have assessed a likelihood of miscommunication or re-traumatization that would induce harm to the consumer rather than promote health and wellness. Online providers must consider limitations to human connectedness and effectiveness of therapy when accepting clients for online services.
I know that the provider's perspective doesn’t make sense to everyone. We tend to think if a person reaches out for help then they should be helped. This is correct, however we must also consider that a person deserves the best, most appropriate help for their situation. It is dangerous and unethical for a therapist to accept a client while having knowledge that the acceptance will cause harm.
Since I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor I will speak from the therapist’s perspective in hopes to promote some understanding. While I am unaware of the conversations between the provider and the individual, I do know that online therapy is not appropriate for everyone. This can be for a number of reasons, but most commonly a face-to-face relationship will be suggested when the potential client has a complicated concern or presents suicidal or homicidal characteristics. Online counseling, particularly those that have a chat or text based format, is NEVER appropriate in these situations. Again, let me emphasize that I do not know this person’s situation, I merely know the tricks of the trade. So internet don’t go telling people I said this person was a danger to themselves or others. What I am saying is that the provider sensed a risk and chose to recommend the most appropriate care for this individual. That said, it is in the client’s best interest NOT to pursue therapy online. My hope is that reasons for the recommendation were explained and appropriate referrals were provided.
All about the $$$
The initial post led to commentary on the motives of therapists. I would be remiss if I did not address a point made in one of the comments of this thread. A commenter blatantly stated that counselors are all in it for the money and indicated that their previous therapist had no knowledge. While not discounting this person’s experience, I must address two points as a concern: a therapist’s lack of knowledge and money hungry therapist.
From a professional perspective, I wonder if this client and their therapist were a good pair. While some therapists believe that any client can work with any therapist, I have found this to be inaccurate. Every counselor will not be effective for every individual. This is just a fact of life. The same as you will not desire to be best friends with every person you meet, you will not desire to work with every professional you meet. And that’s OK. The most important aspect of therapy is the relationship between the client and therapist. What therapists refer to as “fit”. You will do your best work with a therapist that is a good fit. You know that the therapeutic relationship is a good match when it is easier for you to feel uncomfortable, you don’t feel judged, and you trust and respect your therapist’s observations. For most clients a good fit is about a feeling.
Again, I am not aware of the details of this individual’s counseling experience, however their experience has their own perception. Often times a therapist’s perceived lack of knowledge is more about the poor relationship between the therapist and the client. They just weren’t a good match. Check out the article So Therapy Isn’t Working…Or is it.
What some of my colleagues are more likely to be guilty of is not effectively explaining their style of therapy or what the client can expect from the services they provide. (But that’s a whole other blog that I’ll put on my list). The explanation of services is extremely important because the person wanting to feel better wants to feel better fast. #FACTS. Unfortunately the speed of relief depends on the severity or complexity of the problem itself. And since therapists can’t predict the future, this is a tough pill to swallow. When looking for a therapist, listen for them to detail their style (how they will work with you) and if you don’t hear it, ASK. Hearing how a therapist approaches their work is informative and knowing what to expect alleviates stress.
While I agree that therapy isn’t cheap, and even wrote a blog titled Therapy Isn’t Cheap on the topic last year, I am confident that money is not a primary motivator for mental health professionals. While there is a rotten apple or two in any bunch, money is not the motivating factor of healers of any kind. It is an incentive, it is what makes it possible for us to continue providing help, however it is not the motive. After all, if it was about the money the provider would have accepted the client just to get his or her money, right?
So maybe you have read this Reddit thread and maybe you have not. Either way I hope that you now have a better understanding of why a counselor may suggest a different form of care than you were seeking.
I have addressed a lot here, let’s recap
- Online therapy is not for everyone
- Therapists and counselors have the your best interest in mind (even when you can’t understand their method)
- Good therapy is about fit. If you don’t trust your counselor you won’t gain from the experience.
I hope that you are able to locate the best fit possible as you complete their greatest life's work: Exploring yourself.
Feel free to message me with any questions about how to locate the therapist for you.
Rayvéne is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Master Addiction Counselor in Smyrna, GA (just outside Atlanta.)
Empowering women to remove the mask of other people's expectations and have the Audacity to be themselves. Encouraging you to connect with your identity and ignore the noise of other's opinions and expectations. I also help overwhelmed couples find a healthy balance between caring for themselves and one another.
LGBTQQI affirming therapist and ally. Many clients are professionals who are seeking balance and relief from stressors of success. Learn more at www.simplicitypsychotherapy.com
Note: While the information above is intended to provide insight as you begin your journey they are not intended to replace the guidance of a trained professional. Exploring these concerns in the presence of a licensed counselor or other licensed professional may provide deeper insight and assist in managing more multifaceted concerns that may arise.