Faced with joining a desperately long NHS waiting list…Talk Space Spac Merger… “I simply felt that I could not wait any longer– I was motivated and prepared to deal with my problems and rather liked the idea of doing so in the convenience of my own house,” said the 29-year-old, who lives in London. After an online search, he discovered a therapist whose profile fit his needs and booked a chat session for the next day.
Remote, text-based counselling is growing in appeal in the UK. The medical professional app Babylon offers therapy to 150,000 active users, while PlusGuidance, an online counselling service, has 10,000 users. The US-based service BetterHelp also has 150,000 registered UK users (though not all are active). Talkspace, another online therapy platform, reports it has 500,000 registered users worldwide, with the majority of in the US.
Online training recommends therapists on everything from using emojis to preventing misconceptions. They also need to protect patients’ individual information– a problem that has triggered debate in the US, where huge online therapy platforms have actually come under the spotlight.
Buckley said clients must examine services’ personal privacy policies prior to registering. “Not all online counselling sites utilize expertly trained therapists or adhere to a principles policy, so ask your GP for a suggestion in the very first instance. Similar to all type of services and assistance, what works for someone might not work for someone else,” he said.
Marc Bush, primary policy consultant at Young Minds, said that while online counselling services are valuable, “they should not replace in person treatment with an experienced expert. If a young person is having a hard time, we would encourage them to talk with their GP in the very first circumstances, or to call an established service like The Mix, Childline or the Samaritans.”.
For Rackham, who has generalised anxiety disorder, online counselling wasn’t the right fit. “I felt it was near impossible for the therapist to really get a sense of the issues I was handling, as all they needed to go from was my typed-out words. I believe I understood after that online session how crucial interpersonal interaction was.