Mental health is a crucial aspect of overall wellbeing, and fortunately, nowadays there’s a wealth of support available online to help you if you’re experiencing emotional distress.
Online platforms can connect you with licensed mental health professionals for virtual therapy sessions. Many platforms offer flexible scheduling, affordable rates, and a wide range of therapists to choose from, making it easier for people to access therapy on their own terms.
With so many options available, choosing a therapist online can be tricky. What do you need to look out for?
Keep reading to discover six key things to consider.
The therapist should hold a valid license to practice in their state or country. This ensures that they have completed the necessary education, training, and supervision required by the licensing board.
The type of license you should look for when considering working with an online therapist depends on the location. Licensing requirements vary by state and country, and therapists must be licensed in the state or country where they practice.
The United States
In the US, there are several types of licenses for mental health professionals, including:
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC): LPCs have a master's degree in counseling or a related field and have completed the required supervision and post-degree clinical experience. They are licensed to diagnose and treat mental health issues.
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): LCSWs have a master's degree in social work and have completed the required supervision and post-degree clinical experience. They are licensed to diagnose and treat mental health issues. You can look out for people with a CSWE accredited MSW programs completion.
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT): LMFTs have a master's degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field and have completed the required supervision and post-degree clinical experience. They are licensed to diagnose and treat mental health issues within the context of family and relationships.
- Licensed Psychologist: Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology and have completed the required supervision and post-degree clinical experience. They are licensed to diagnose and treat mental health issues and may also conduct psychological testing.
You can check the licensing board website for your state to verify a therapist's license. Some online therapy platforms also require that therapists provide proof of their license before being able to provide services on their platform.
The United Kingdom
Here are the most common types of licensed mental health professionals in the UK:
- Clinical Psychologist: Clinical psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology and are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). They are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of mental health issues.
- Counsellor: Counsellors may have a diploma or degree in counselling or psychotherapy and may be registered with several professional bodies, including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). Counsellors are trained to provide talk therapy to individuals and couples.
- Psychotherapist: Psychotherapists have a diploma or degree in psychotherapy and may be registered with professional bodies, including the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Psychotherapists provide talk therapy to individuals and may have specialized training in specific types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialized in psychiatry and are registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). They are trained to diagnose and treat mental health disorders and may prescribe medication as part of their treatment plan.
When choosing an online therapist in the UK, make sure to verify their registration with the appropriate regulatory body. The HCPC website provides information on registered professionals in the UK.
Another factor to consider along with licensing is the therapist’s education.
The therapist should have a degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or a related field from an accredited university. This indicates that they’ve received a comprehensive education in the theory and practice of mental health counseling.
The therapist should have received training in evidence-based therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or psychodynamic therapy. These approaches have been proven effective in treating a wide range of mental health issues.
For more information on different therapeutic modalities, check out this guide.
It’s a good idea to check if the therapist specialises in or has experience working with clients with similar issues to yours.
For example, if you’re struggling with C-PTSD, it is important to choose a therapist who has experience with C-PTSD.
5. Professional Memberships
The therapist should be a member of professional organizations. Membership in these organizations indicates that the therapist is committed to ethical and professional standards.
The United States
In the US, the therapist should be a member of professional bodies such as the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), or the American Counseling Association (ACA).
The United Kindgom
In the UK, the therapist should be a member of professional bodies such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), the British Psychological Society (BPS), and the National Counselling Society (NCS).
6. Reviews and Ratings
Finally, be sure to check reviews and ratings of the therapist on their website, social media, or online directories. This can provide insight into the therapist's effectiveness and professionalism.
It’s important to note that not all online therapists are licensed mental health professionals.
Some online platforms may employ coaches, mentors, or other non-licensed individuals who provide mental health services. While these individuals have valuable skills and experience, they may not be qualified to provide the same level of care as a licensed therapist when it comes to mental health.
Choosing an online therapist can be difficult – there are so many options available!
This articled outlined six key factors to consider when selecting a professional:
- Checking the therapist's licensing
- Reviewing their education
- Looking at the training they’ve undertaken
- Considering their experience
- Checking their professional memberships
- Looking at their reviews and ratings
We hope you found this helpful!
Here are some more articles that may be interested in:
- How to Get the Most Out of Therapy
- 4 Tips for Attending Online Therapy
- How Can Therapy Help You? 7 People Share Their Stories