Remote counselling via email offers many advantages in comparison to traditional, face-to-face counselling.
Advantages of Email Counselling: Choice and Flexibility
Working online provides counselling and therapy clients with several advantages in terms of choice of counsellors and ‘meeting’ arrangements.
Client Choice and Geography
Clients can choose an online counsellor for reasons completely independent of geographical proximity, such as theoretical orientation or specialization. Rather than starting with the question of who is available in their area, clients can start with the question of what kind of service they would like. From the counsellor’s point of view, all clients can be dealt with in the same way, whether they live on a remote island, in the centre of a large city, or in a completely different country.
Flexible Physical Requirements
Clients don’t need to be physically mobile. Clients don’t need to be able to hear. In general, clients don’t need to be feeling physically 100% in the way they might if they were attending an appointment in the counsellor’s office. Clients can make themselves comfortable with a cup of tea, candlelight, music, or anything else that contributes to their well-being.
Flexible, Client-Driven ‘Appointment’ Times
For clients who are unable to keep regular appointment times for reasons of work — or who just don’t like regular appointment times for any reason at all! — the flexibility of working with an asynchronous medium like email can make the difference between pursuing counselling and doing without.
Flexible, Client-Driven Frequency
Charging methods for email counselling are now being developed that challenge the traditional model whereby counselling frequency takes place on the counsellor’s terms: instead, the client can be entirely free to set their own pace of counselling work. This was especially true at my own former online practice.
Freedom to Travel
Clients who travel for business or study, or who temporarily relocate to another country, can carry on their counselling without interruption.
Advantages of Email Counselling: Costs and Time
Online therapy and counselling eliminates many of the overheads which clients normally have to pay for, as well as the investment of time necessary to get to a physical office.
Flexible, Client-Driven Costs
The charging methods for email counselling used by some online counselling services (including my own former practice) place as much control of costs as possible in the hands of the client.
Travel Costs and Time Commitments
Counselling via email eliminates the usual requirement to spend time and money travelling to the counsellor’s office.
Overall Service Costs
Some proportion of the fees charged by counsellors and psychotherapists must go to cover overheads such as the costs for supervision, ongoing professional development, and office facilities. In the case of counselling delivered via the internet, a high proportion of your fee is paying for the counsellor’s time; you are not paying for the counsellor’s travel to and from an office, and you are not paying for a receptionist to cover telephone enquiries.
Advantages of Email Counselling: Privacy
By eliminating intermediaries and allowing counselling work to take place without leaving home, online counselling offers an unusual level of privacy.
Email counselling can take place from the privacy of the client’s own home.
Absence of Intermediaries
Counselling via email never need involve intermediaries: it is not necessary to speak with a receptionist to arrange appointments, and it is not necessary to leave messages or play ‘phone tag’ to connect with the counsellor.
Advantages of Email Counselling: The Therapeutic Process Itself
Finally, in terms of the actual therapeutic process which counselling involves, working online provides special advantages.
Some people find it easier to discuss personally significant topics without another person physically present, and some clients feel more comfortable in the relationship with their counsellor more quickly this way.
For most people, typing is harder and more time-consuming than speaking. Because it ‘costs’ more in terms of physical effort to write than to speak, some people find email communication encourages them to express themselves more clearly and to put greater effort into understanding the other person.
Asynchronous Communication and ‘Time to Finish’
Some people find it easier to express lengthy or complex ideas or feelings via email, knowing that they have time to ‘finish the thought’ before eliciting another person’s reaction to the initial parts of what they have expressed.
Journalling and Automatic Transcription
The act of writing about one’s experiences can itself be therapeutic, and the exchange of emails with a counsellor creates an automatic transcript of all sessions. The nearest equivalent for face-to-face counselling, the audio recording of sessions, requires time-consuming manual transcription if a written record is desired. From the counsellor’s point of view, the automatic transcription of email counselling also allows greater transparency for purposes of supervision/consultative support.
Opportunity to Reflect
The asynchronous nature of counselling by email provides both client and counsellor the opportunity to reflect on thoughts, feelings and other reactions to the other person’s words. In my own experience, the amount of time I spend reflecting on a given statement by a client is significantly greater in the case of text exchanges than in the case of live verbal exchanges.
When working without the normal visual cues, both client and counsellor need to be especially aware of assumptions they might make about the other person. The opportunity to reflect on these assumptions can itself be helpful to the therapeutic process.
In This Section
- About Counselling and Psychotherapy
- Counselling, Psychotherapy & Mental Health Bibliography
- Mental Health News
- Online Therapy and Online Counselling
- Advantages of Email Counselling and Online Therapy in General
- Assessing Suitability of Email Counselling and Online Therapy
- Disadvantages of Email Counselling and Online Therapy in General
- Encryption and Security of Online Therapy
- Ethics, Security and Real Therapy, Online
- Hints, Tips and Caveats for Effective Emailing
- Secure Web Forms: Are They Really?
- Talk to a Counselor or Therapist Online via Secure Chat or Email
- Self-Help and Overviews
- Symptoms, Diagnostics, and Medications
- Types of Counselling and Psychotherapy
- Web Resources in Counselling, Psychotherapy and Mental Health
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by