What Does an Online Therapist Do?
Online therapists are similar to in-person therapists in that they work with individuals who are struggling with mental health disorders. However, online therapists may work with a variety of different people and may even specialize in a certain area. Typically, online therapists must have at least a master’s degree in order to practice and have to pass a state licensing exam.
Whether you are considering a career in therapy or looking to learn as much as you can about online therapy before you participate in the services, you can use the information in this article to help you learn as much as you can about what therapists do. All career information in this article has then synthesized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Responsibilities of an Online Therapist
Similar to inpatient therapists and counselors, online therapists will perform counseling sessions as well as develop treatment plans for those they work with. However, the exact responsibilities of the online therapist really depends on their specialty and the people they decide to work with. However, there are some specific responsibilities that the online therapist will likely participate in regardless of where they work and who they work with:
- Work with their clients to develop treatment goals.
- Work with the client’s family to help create a treatment plan and identify treatment goals.
- Help clients learn new skills that will help them cope with their mental health disorder or change their behavior.
- Help clients understand any behaviors or situations that may get in the way of a full recovery or impede coping mechanisms.
- Work with client family members to teach them about their loved one’s mental health disorder and help the family members cope with the problems they face.
- Refer clients to appropriate sources and services including job placement and online support groups.
- Lead counseling sessions and guide the therapeutic conversation to help clients reflect and understand their mental health disorder.
While these responsibilities are a general overview, the responsibilities of an online therapist will likely incorporate all of them. In addition, some online therapists may even participate group or marriage counseling where they will be counseling multiple people at once. If they decided to get the family involved, they may even facilitate a larger group counseling sessions.
How Much Does an Online Therapist Make?
Typically, mental health counselors will make about $47,660 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics study that was done in May of 2020. This salary really depends on how much a therapist works, their level of education, their level of experience, and where they work.
Types of Therapists
While therapists can treat a variety of mental disorders, many therapists will choose to either specialize in a certain area of mental health or will even get specific degrees in certain areas. For that reason, many therapists will choose to work with clients that are in an area of interest and will likely refer clients to a different therapist if they feel they are not equipped to work with that person.
When you are looking for an online therapist, this is something you should keep in mind, and you should look for an individual who specializes in your area of need. For example, you may search for a certain type of therapist when you are researching online therapy options. Below are a couple of different types of therapists that you may come across:
- Marriage and family counselor
- Addiction therapist
- Behavioral therapist
- Divorce therapist
- Child and adolescent therapist
- Clinical therapist
- Cognitive therapist
- Cognitive-behavioral therapist
- Eating disorder therapist
- Trauma therapist
- Nutritional therapist
- Social therapist
- Psychodynamic therapist
- Dialectical behavior therapist
- Exercise therapist
Rules and Ethics That an Online Therapist Must Follow
The American Psychological Association (APA) outlines ethical guidelines that mental health professionals must follow. These guidelines hold the minimum standards that all mental health professionals must follow. Even though the below is a summary of these guidelines, all mental health therapists, whether they’re online or in-person, must follow these guidelines so that they can provide the most ethical and best care possible.
Because online therapists use their computers as their main form of therapy, they must understand online therapy techniques as well as have a sufficient understanding of the technology that they use. Not only does this include understanding of computers and technology in general, but the online therapists must understand exactly how to use online platforms that they use for therapy. This means that the individual must know how to keep client information confidential, maintain privacy online, and store client information in secure locations.
Work Within Scope of Practice
Online therapists can only provide treatment for clients that they are trained to work with. If an online therapist comes across an individual that they are not trained to treat or if the client reveals information that indicates a more severe disorder, that therapist is required by law to refer the individual to a therapist who knows how to manage and treat that disorder.
If this happens to you as the client, it is not something that you should be ashamed of or worried about. In fact, it just means that the therapist is doing their job and making sure that they find an individual who is qualified to provide you treatment.
Seek Out Training, Knowledge, and Supervision
Online therapists are required to continuously find new training, search for the most recent research, and find supervision if they are trying to learn a new skill or feel they need a mentor for guidance. For this reason, counselors and therapists are generally required by the state to stay up to date with the best practices and attend formal and informal training sessions to learn about the newest treatments and to stay up to date on the most ethical care.
Understand Laws and Regulations
Because different states have slightly different policies and regulations, the online therapist is required to review and understand the relevant laws and regulations in the states that they practice. Online therapists must be licensed in the state that they wish to practice and cannot work with individuals who are from other states if they are not licensed in that state. As the client, you are not required to have an in-depth understanding of these laws. In fact, the therapist is required to know and follow these laws and guidelines.
How to Become an Online Counselor
To practice as an online counselor therapist, individuals must have a master’s degree and a license from the state in which they wish to practice in. Typically, those who are interested in becoming online counselors will first get their bachelor’s degree in psychology, communications, social work, or any other degree program that focuses on social services and helping people.
However, you do not necessarily need a bachelor’s degree in any of these areas to become an a counselor. In fact, many counseling master’s degree programs will accept anyone who is committed to becoming a counselor. And, having a degree in a different area may even make you a desirable candidate because you have a unique background that can help you develop a solid relationship with your clients.
Some individuals who want to become online counselors may work towards their doctorate, Ph.D., or PsyD in psychology. This is the highest level of degree that an individual can attain in psychology and likely means that the individual can practice independently or even own their own online firm if they so choose. Yet, many states do allow those with a master’s degree to practice independently and in an online format. And, many of the online platforms that use therapy, such as Talkspace, simply requires a master’s degree and licensure.
To get licensure and certification and counseling, the individual will need to have a master’s degree and between 2000 and 4000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition to these hours of supervision, the individual will need to take a National Board for Certified Counselors exam. Further, if the aspiring counselor wants to be certified in a certain area, they may need to take a subject-specific exam to get certified.
For example, someone who is interested in addictions may need to take an addiction-specific exam, or someone who is interested in school counseling needs to take a school counselor exam. While it is not required, those who are interested in becoming a counselor may want to volunteer or work in mental health facilities to gain the necessary experience.
What Qualities Make a Good Counselor?
Counseling is not an easy career. To be a successful counselor, an individual must be a great listener, have good attention to detail, and be able to emphasize and relate to people. In fact, this career can be exhausting and having some of the qualities that make a good counselor may be beneficial to a counselor’s success.
- Compassion. Compassion is an important quality to have because counselors often work with people who are dealing with very stressful and difficult situations. For that reason, counselors must be able to emphasize within people that they work with.
- Interpersonal skills. Because a major part of counseling and therapy is talking listening to people, a good counselor must have excellent interpersonal skills so they can develop and nurture positive relationships with their clients. However, this does not mean the person talks the entire time, interpersonal skills also mean that they can sit back and listen when they need to.
- Listening skills. In addition to personal skills, a counselor must be able to actively listen to an entire session. This means that even with the client has been talking for 10 minutes, the therapist must be actively listening and attentive to what the individual is saying. This is key to the counseling technique because the lack of active listening could mean you missed something important to the client said.
- Patience. Working with people can be exhausting. That said, a good counselor must have patience and understand when a certain treatment method did not work with the client.
While it is not required, many individuals who go into psychology or counseling careers have experienced some sort of mental health challenges of their own. Having overcome mental health disorders, trauma, abuse, or any other type of mental health challenges can be beneficial in establishing relationships with those that you work with. This is because even though you can never understand the exact situation that your client has experienced, you can at least emphasize and have a better idea of what they must be experiencing.
Now that you know what an online therapist does, it’s time for you to start looking for an online therapist of your own. As you learned above, online therapists are licensed professionals who work with individuals who are struggling with mental health disorders. Many of these professionals work for the online platforms that we have reviewed on this site. So instead of spending hours online trying to research all the platforms that are available, check out our in-depth and comprehensive reviews of the best on my therapy platforms.
All information in this article is based on web research and none medical professional opinion. The information in this article should not be taken as medical advice and readers are advised to contact their medical doctors for further advice.
*THE ABOVE IS NOT AND SHALL NOT BE CONSIDERED AS PROFESSIONAL OR MEDICAL ADVICE.