Relationship counselling is a form of couples therapy whose aim is to resolve interpersonal conflict and improve your romantic relationship. Online relationship counselling allows you many benefits of traditional counselling without the restraints of face-to-face counselling in a professional’s office.
An online session can be conducted using an internet connection and software, providing a significant amount of versatility for whatever suits your needs best.
Since the pandemic, we’ve all been meeting online for catching up with friends, work meetings, professional development, and a raft of other reasons.
Most couples counsellors have also been seeing their clients online via Zoom, Skype counselling, or other videoconference technology. Sex therapy for couples also works well online. And many family therapists are now also offering family counselling sessions online too.
There are many advantages of online therapy, compared to disadvantages. Read on to find out if online counselling sessions are right for you:
Benefits of online relationship counselling
1. The convenience of not travelling to or from the therapist’s office
Participating in couples counselling through online sessions means that your appointments happen wherever you are – you don’t have to travel to an office in the city, so they are a convenient alternative to traditional face-to-face therapy.
You save the time and money involved in commuting and can attend a couple’s session from your own private space.
Whether you have an hour-long commute in the car at the end of the workday, find it easiest to schedule a session between meetings at the office, or would rather sit on the couch at home, online relationship counselling allows you the freedom to choose where your appointments happen.
2. You’ll be more comfortable in your own space (which helps the therapy)
Comfort is key to getting the most out of any therapeutic process. Suppose you can sit in a room that brings you peace and joy, surrounded by objects that invoke loving, happy memories, in clothing that makes you feel comfortable or confident. These situational characteristics will have a positive impact on your ability to engage in therapy.
The function of counselling services is to support couples in their relationship goals. If allowing you the space to sit in your pyjamas with a cup of tea next to your favourite household plant makes you feel supported, online couples therapy offers that freedom and support.
A small tip: although the sofa in your living room may be comfortable, when I meet with couples online, I prefer they each sit in individual chairs set close to each other to facilitate better communication so they can accurately read each others’ facial expressions and help the other person understand them.
3. If you can’t get childcare, you can still attend marriage counselling
Balancing parenting with your individual needs can be tricky, especially when you can’t find someone to watch the children.
With an online therapy session, you can attend your appointments from home while your kids hang out at home in the background or have a nap.
This difference is a definite bonus over in-person treatment, as it’s not viable to let your kids roam around an office environment.
4. Online relationship counselling can work just as well as in-person counselling
Expedited by the rapidly evolving situation COVID-19 has brought to the world, the medium of online therapy was initially met with resistance and concern by many couples. However, according to Frontiers in Psychology, couples have reported that the distance perceived in an online appointment between themselves and their therapist created a sense of ease and control over matters related to their relationship.
Couples counselling is about providing partners with the conflict resolution skills and tools necessary to help improve their relationship and resolve their relationship issues.
Practising communication skills learned during sessions within your own home may translate to resolving differences in real life. It certainly helps break down the barrier of only using them in the counsellor’s office and lets you work on your key issues in a space you’re familiar with.
5. Online couples therapy is confidential
All of the regulatory guidelines for client privacy and confidentiality are just as applicable for online counselling as in-person counselling. If you’re concerned about privacy with your therapist, feel free to ask how they’re maintaining your privacy and confidentiality – you have a right to know these answers.
Standard practices for maintaining patient confidentiality in online counselling involve the counsellor using headphones in a session so that they’re the only person who can hear what you’re saying on their end of the call. Online counselling also has the bonus of not having to sit in a waiting room where you could run into people you know.
6. Get help anytime, anywhere
If you live in a smaller or remote community, accessing specialist counselling services was traditionally more difficult. Smaller communities have a smaller pool of resources, including experienced therapists.
Historically, if you weren’t in a position to drive long distances to a larger city, you were stuck with professionals who may not have been a good fit. Or worse, you personally knew this person outside of their role as a healthcare professional.
7. You can access a relationship expert, not in your local community
With online relationship counselling, you have access to many counsellors all over the country, making it easier to address a wide range of issues in a way that’s convenient for you.
Since online couples counselling isn’t restricted geographically, you can connect with a healthcare professional or relationship counsellor who specializes in addressing your relationship difficulties, despite being in different locations.
8. Have your pets close by for comfort
Research shows connecting with animals eases your anxiety. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), owning a pet helps you and your family members with stress management:
“Scientific research has found that human-animal interaction (HAI) can help reduce anxiety, depression, and loneliness.”
Using animals to ease your stress can be helpful in online sessions. Attending relationship counselling from home puts you in the same space as your beloved animals, where a quick pat, snuggle, or hug has been shown to provide comfort and alleviate worry.
9. Works well if you’re in a long-distance relationship or you can’t be together in the same place for therapy
There’s more freedom for you and your partner with online couples counselling if you can’t be in the same room together due to being in a long-distance relationship, one partner being a fly-in-fly-out worker or any other reason that is keeping you apart.
You can attend video sessions together from the same space or be in different locations and still attend the session at the same time.
Whether you’re in Sydney and he’s in Perth, or you’re at home and she’s at the office, online relationship counselling provides the flexibility to work around your life.
10. It’s quick and easy to schedule appointments online
You can book an appointment or consultation online with just a few clicks, selecting a date and time that is ideal for you.
There aren’t many drawbacks to online therapy, but here are a few to consider:
1. Harder to read body language
Gestures and body language can sometimes be missed in online interactions since you can only see as much of the other person as is displayed on the computer screen. Similarly, if the video freezes or skips, you could miss inflections in tones of voice or facial expressions.
2. Interruptions could occur
If you think about all the activity constantly happening around you, do you often find that you’re in a quiet place where nothing is happening? Kids getting into an argument, the dog getting worked up about something, the neighbour asking to borrow a cup of sugar – so many things are constantly going on in our lives.
When your appointment is set smack dab in the middle of your busy life, it’s more likely interruptions might occur and distract you from the session. To counteract this, try to prepare in advance for online therapy so you can minimise disruptions as much as possible.
3. May feel less intimate
When you’re talking about challenging personal matters, it’s easier when you feel a sense of emotional safety and intimacy with the person you’re speaking to. The physical distance created in online couples therapy, while a relief for some, may remove that sense of intimacy for others, making it more difficult to be open and vulnerable in online sessions.
Interestingly, I’ve actually found that online therapy can often feel more intimate than a session in my office, and my clients often report the same.
4. Technology can glitch
Since there’s a technological medium connecting you to your relationship therapist, any disruptions with an internet connection, Smartphone, or computer can potentially interrupt or derail your entire appointment.
Most online marriage counsellors understand these issues and are happy to reschedule if there’s a significant interruption because of the technology.
Not knowing how to use face-to-face programs or online platforms such as Zoom or Skype can also be a barrier to online counselling sessions and may affect the partners’ to communicate effectively. The good news is the software is now easier to use than ever. It’s just a few clicks, and you’re immediately on the video conference with your therapist discussing your relationship concerns.
When is online therapy not suitable?
Online relationship counselling is not appropriate for everyone.
Here are a few things that would disqualify you from meeting online with a therapist:
- domestic violence in your current relationship – emotional, physical, or sexual
- mental health issues that create extreme mood swings from highs to lows where you feel unstable and emotionally fragile
- impulses to harm yourself or others
- the physical dependence on drugs or alcohol
- any other serious psychiatric illness or mood disorder that a skilled health professional is not well managing
Any of these factors may indicate you’re experiencing independent mental health issues that need to be attended to before couples therapy is appropriate. I encourage you to seek help from your GP if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
There are many benefits to participating in online relationship counselling. Online therapy is just as effective as in-person sessions, with many additional freedoms and options for versatility.
However, distance and using a technological medium isn’t the right solution for everyone. Schedule a phone chat with an online therapist to determine if online marriage counselling or family therapy is right for you before you book an appointment.
Do you need relationship help?
If you’re considering online relationship counselling services, Clinton Power has extensive experience helping couples create better relationships. Clinton uses evidence-based interventions based on the science of healthy relationships in his work with his clients.
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.