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Online counseling: pros and cons

Автор статьи: Мамедова Ирада Руслановна Клинический психолог, психолог-консультант, ведущая психотерапевтических групп.

Written by: Irada Ruslanova
clinical psychologist, consulting psychologist, therapy groups host.

Communicating online has made geographical borders nominal if not erased them altogether. We attend advanced training courses, regularly see our friends from all corners of the world, take part in live broadcasts of lectures and seminars, and expand our own perception thanks to the effect of real presence.

Counseling via Skype is a practice that despite doubts and debates around it gains more and more popularity with every passing year. An online session hardly falls behind any face-to-face conversation in terms of its effectiveness. During such video conferences psychologist can also observe client’s posture, facial expression and body language. The client is also surrounded by friendly environment, not to mention that no time is spent getting to and from the specialist’s office. Taking into consideration the fact of self-isolation that we all have to follow, this way could be the only solution for those who are in need of professional help.

Skype online counseling – advantage over personal visits

  1. Saving time. This is the real saving grace for people with busy schedule and young mothers that can not afford 2-3 hours for a face-to-face meeting time-wise (including time to get to the office). Traffic jams considerably prolong time in takes to travel around the city. For instance, in Saint Petersburg it can take up to 1-2 hours just to get to the specialist's office. Add the counseling time and you will get full 3-5 hours. If the therapy is 2-3 times a week it makes 4-12 hours on the road alone which is critical ever for a person that has a lot of spare time. On the other hand, having sessions online saves a lot of time and energy while demanding less action to get everything set. All you need is access to the Internet, a microphone and a headset.
  2. Availability of a specialist for people from other regions of the country or other countries. This is a great solution if you live in a place without a proper specialist or live abroad and need help from a Russian speaking therapist.
  3. Non interrupted therapy. You continue working with your therapist even while having a vacation, in the middle of a business trip or after moving to another city or country.
  4. Anonymity. Online counseling is useful when anonymity is of extreme importance. To get help all you need to do is fill in the online form: your name or pseudonym and a preferable way to contact you. You will not be seen or see any other clients of your therapist.
  5. Optional recording of the session and the information. During the session a client gets a lot of information that further has to be digested and processed which takes time. Skype sessions let us record the whole talks, exchange links to extra materials, literature, images and video files.
  6. Comfort and safety. In this particular case we mean psychological safety. When a conversation is held at home (or any other place that the patient considers suitable) with a cup of favorite beverage in his/her favorite armchair the patient feels safer and surrounded by more comfort. This lets the specialist get rid of some barriers, reduce the psychological distance and, as a result, build more trust. This fact fully answers the question weather online therapy is effective or not.



Cons against online counseling

Advantages of working online are doubtless. However we can not ignore it’s negative sides. The most evident one is bad internet connection, problems online and flaws in hardware work. Low picture quality can make it difficult for a specialist to read the client’s emotional state. The session can also be terminated simply because of failed connection.

Majority of complaints towards online practices are directly connected to the quality of connection which left much to be desired even a few years ago. Of course no one is safe from various technical issues but with good internet connection and technical capabilities (laptops, smartphones, tabs, stationary computers) they happen not more often than simple power cut in a consultant’s office or repair works in an adjacent room.

Online doesn’t suit those who are going through a body therapy, it can be unacceptable while doing some of the exercises as well as have an overall negative effect. If we talk about working with children, not all playing techniques can be applied virtually.


The main factor determining whether the therapy will or will not work is an emotional contact based on trust between you and your therapist. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting in the same room or having a conversation online.


For some clients it is imperative to have a live conversation. In that case it is necessary to find a therapist living close which is a limiting factor but at the same time it guarantees face-to-face talk.

Sometimes a client needs to change environment, his/her surroundings, in other words: to get to the therapist’s office. On the way there it is good to think over the questions and on the way back – new information. This is also possible to do if enough time is dedicated before and after the online session.

We also can’t ignore unforeseen and/or emergency circumstances that could occur during the conversation in which specialist is limited in his actions.



What type of communication with your therapist should you pick?

Experience of specialists of our center shows that in terms of effectiveness both formats are equal. There are cases when clients changed to online meetings due to inability to come to office or lack of time while being in need of psychological help.

Having doubts about online therapy? The main factor determining the effectiveness of work is emotional contact between psychologist and client based on trust. It is not important whether you are in the same room or in a virtual space.

So, the choice is all yours! However, in conclusion it will be good to mention again that in conditions of isolation and pandemic online counseling is the only way. A lot of people have to experience stress caused by everyday problems, let alone the risk of getting a virus which is scary on its own. Panic that is spread across the social media is negatively reflected in our behavior, actions and reactions.

The fact that you show interest towards Skype counseling tells that even though you stay at home you are not wasting your time. You resist this colossal pressure on your mental and emotional state that comes from the outside world. Working with a qualified specialist you will be less exposed to stress and be more efficient in overcoming difficulties which in turn will positively reflect on your physical state.

Remember: soon the problems will be left behind and all we have to do is not to fall into panic, keep composure and positive attitude.

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Online counseling: pros and cons
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