Does Online Counselling Actually Work for Gay Men?
Does online counselling actually work? I asked myself this very question when I sought out my own counselling. And to be honest, I wasn’t convinced it would.
Even with the research I found which suggested online counselling was just as effective as traditional in-person counselling, I wasn’t sold on the idea. Not to mention the variety of names: telehealth, virtual counselling, video counselling, Skype counselling etc, made it all the more confusing.
The training most counsellors in North America have received (including my own in Canada), has been very slow to adapt to new technological opportunities. It’s ironic, because for a field that touts itself as being curious about the possibilities of change, overall it has resisted changes in modern communication styles.
I’ve done my own counselling online, as well as the work I’ve done with my own clients. After experiencing online counselling from both sides, my concerns about its effectiveness quickly went away.
For both my clients and myself, the experience has often been that once the counselling gets started, the medium we’re using just becomes another part of the environment. It’s just like getting used to an in-person counselling office. Once you’ve settled in and are comfortable, you don’t think much about the couch you’re sitting on, but on the topics being discussed in the counselling itself.
However this has just been my experience. Does online counselling really work? And more importantly, does it work for gay men? Let’s dive into this topic in more detail.
Research supports the efficacy of online counselling
➡️ A 2017 study found that 98% of participants thought online counselling was effective (compared to just 71% who though in-person counselling was effective). In addition, 78% of participants classified as having severe depression before online counselling were no longer classified as having severe depression after finishing online counselling.
➡️ A 2012 study concluded that online counselling had good client satisfaction and comparable outcomes to in-person counselling.
➡️ A 2018 study reviewed the existing research, and found that online counselling was just as effective for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as in-person counselling.
➡️ A 2015 study found that online counselling was just as effective for addressing anxiety as in-person counselling.
Is online counselling secure and confidential?
Yes. If your counsellor is using a secure form of communication, you can be assured that this is just as, if not more, secure and confidential than in-person counselling. If you’re unsure about this, ask how your potential counsellor is making sure counselling is secure and confidential.
For example, I use a secure web-based telehealth platform called doxy.me for counselling that meets Canadian security and privacy requirements for health records management.
Is online counselling a good fit for everyone?
It depends. While the research supports the overall effectiveness of online counselling, it’s generally agreed that in-person counselling is preferable for people who are regularly experiencing psychosis and/or suicidal thoughts.
The counselling field is finally catching up
Although COVID-19 has had a cascade of devastating global effects, it has forced the counselling field to rapidly adjust and think more seriously about how to effectively deliver online counselling. As a result, this has made online counselling better for clients, and introduced more guidance for counsellors, many of whom are now working online.
Gay men have been preparing for online counselling for years
For the past few decades, gay men have been using the internet to build relationships. Whether we realize it or not, connecting online is an integral part of our culture. For this reason, gay men may find it much easier to build a comfortable and trusting relationship with a counsellor online.
This is good news for gay men, because again and again, research has shown that the counselling relationship between the client and counsellor is the number one determinant of having a good counselling outcome.
The relationship is what counts most
What does all this mean? It means that whether counselling is in-person or online, your relationship with your counsellor is what counts the most for you to have a good experience in counselling.
Simply put, online counselling is a good option for most gay men, and the research backs this up. Above all else, if you feel comfort and trust with a potential counsellor, that’s a good sign you’re likely to benefit from counselling, regardless of if it’s online or in-person.