When I first started having problems with my health, my appointments with doctors would often end with a referral to a psychologist or counsellor.
I hated it.
Didn’t they know I had something wrong with me physically? I didn’t need someone to talk about my feelings with. And I certainly wasn’t depressed.
Then I went to university and started studying psychology. I learnt about the role of stress and negative thinking on every kind of illness from colds to viruses to severe chronic conditions. Our professors warned us to expect colds to flood in after midterms, not because of the cold weather, but because of the buildup of stress. Like clockwork, when midterms were over, half the school seemed to come down with a cold.
I realised there were a lot of benefits of seeing a counsellor. In fact, I think everyone should go for a mental health checkup like we get a physical every year! So, I decided if I got another chance to work with a therapist, I would take it.
I got the chance again several years later when I was referred to an environmental health clinic. It was incredibly valuable for me to work with a counsellor to find where some of my negative thought patterns came from and repeated themselves, and how this was impacting my health. The counsellor also helped me discover and deepen my mindfulness practice.
I worked with my therapist for two years and was able to expand my journey into yoga and meditation in the therapy practice. This also taught me the importance of finding a counsellor who is the right fit for you. This can be hard – and expensive – to do if you’re only looking for a therapist in one location.
When I became location independent and started travelling, it was a lot harder for me to access healthcare. I was able to get physical exams, but it’s trickier to build a relationship with a therapist when you’re always moving to different cities or different countries. Often I didn’t even speak enough of the language to order a coffee – there was no way I’d be able to talk to a local therapist.
A few years ago I found out about telehealth and online counselling. These services are fantastic for people who are location independent. They are also great for people who have a chronic illness and may have trouble getting to an appointment or finding a therapist they mesh with in their area. Online counselling allows you to find and chat with a counsellor from anywhere in the world. You can read the profile of different therapists to find someone who fits well with your personality, and then set up calls or text-based check-ins for your therapy sessions.
Some practitioners offer these services privately, and there are also organisations like BetterHelp who are setting up services to provide mental healthcare around the world.
5 benefits of online counselling:
1. You can do it from anywhere in the world
If you live in a remote area or somewhere that doesn’t have good access to therapy, or if you’re somewhere temporarily where you don’t speak the language, you can always connect to your online counsellor. Though you may have to do some fidgeting in your schedule to match up the time zones! You can also message your counsellor from work, or when out with family and friends if you run into a tough situation on the go. This type of counselling offers a lot more flexibility than the traditional once-a-week office appointment.
2. It’s more affordable than traditional therapy
Since your therapist won’t have to travel or pay for office space during your online session, online therapy is often cheaper than seeing a counsellor in person. You’ll also save money on gas or public transportation getting to and from your appointment. If you’re living in a place where mental health services aren’t covered by your insurance, this is a big bonus.
3. You can use text-based services
Many online counsellors offer text-based services via email or text message. This is beneficial for those little nagging thoughts that come up throughout the day (like, how am I ever going to get out of bed today). This is also a fantastic service for those who might be suffering from anxiety and depression and have trouble talking with someone face to face.
4. You don’t need to leave the house
Living with a chronic illness can leave you feeling drained. Especially when you’re running from doctor to doctor every week. Being able to talk to a counsellor from the comfort of your own home can save you time and energy. It’s hard on our stress and energy levels to always be rushing to different appointments. Using a telehealth service can help ease this problem.
5. Great for introverts
If you’re like me and gain your energy from being alone, online therapy can help you preserve some of your mental energy while working on your health. Talking to someone for an hour can be exhausting. Yet, if you’re able to make shorter calls and used text-based services, you can personalise your therapy services to meet your energy needs.
I loved discovering online counselling because it mirrored so many of the reasons I love teaching yoga online. While I do enjoy getting to teach classes and workshops to humans in real life (IRL for the forum goers), the benefits of online services for those living with a chronic illness (hey!), or those who travel all the time (hiya ;)), far outweigh any drawbacks.
I believe that everyone can benefit from speaking with a counsellor. Especially people whose lives have been upended by having a chronic illness. You can learn more about online counselling services here.
I’d love to continue the conversation about mental health and reducing the stigma on this blog. Let me know your thoughts/experiences with counselling or telehealth in the comments or on social media!