What Is Chat Therapy, And How Can You Benefit from It?

By: Steven Finkelstein

Updated May 11, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Cessel Boyd

There are all kinds of ways that you can cope with issues that you are having. Some people have hobbies or rely on their friends and family for support when they feel stressed out or depressed. For others, though, chat assistance or chat therapy has emerged as an option. Let us take a moment to discuss what chat assistance and chat therapy are so that you can get some idea as to whether either might be for you.

Chat Assistance vs. Chat Therapy: Understanding The Basics

The essence of chat assistance is that you go online, or there are phone apps in some cases, and you talk to people about what is troubling you. In that respect, it is much like traditional talk therapy, which is helpful in many situations. The main difference, though, is that generally speaking, when you're dealing with talk therapy, you contact a qualified mental health professional who you know has received training in their field. That is not necessarily the case with chat assistance. In fact, in many cases, if you go to one of these websites or apps, they'll go out of their way to state that the person with whom you are speaking has little or no recognized training.

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Why Do Some People Find Chat Assistance Appealing?

You might be asking: what would I want to speak to someone about my problems which is not a mental health professional? There are a couple of different answers to that question. The first is that in many cases, chat assistance is free. You sign up for a site, and often it costs you nothing. Money might be a concern if you don't have health insurance or you are unemployed or underemployed. With chat assistance, you don't have to go through any screening or a research process, as you would with a therapist. If you make up your mind to engage in chat assistance, you can be online and talking to someone within moments.

There's also the notion that you might have problems or issues, but you might not necessarily think that they are severe enough for you to seek a licensed therapist. You might be feeling exasperated because of a family member or a friend's actions, for instance, and you want to vent about it to someone who will listen. Your aim might not be a comprehensive breakdown or analysis of what is taking place in these situations, as you would get with a therapist. Instead, you are taking a more casual approach to things, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Who Is Most Likely To Benefit From Chat Assistance?

Those who get involved with chat assistance are interested in chatting with regular people about their problems rather than professionals. It's almost the equivalent of talking about your issues with your friendly neighborhood bartender or hairdresser, purveyors of homespun wisdom that has no real training or expertise behind it.

This is not the type of thing that you would ever want to do if you're trying to get a mental illness diagnosed or you're feeling suicidal. The people who will benefit most from chat assistance keep fighting with their roommates about how high to keep the thermostat. Relatively frivolous problems are fair game in chat assistance. You could even say that is why it was created.

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Who Do You Speak To During Chat Assistance?

The reality of chat assistance is that even as anyone can log on and use it, virtually anyone can sign up to be a listener. Because of that, when you use chat assistance, you do not know who will be on the other end of the conversation. You don't know if they have received any training, their education level, their age, background, or anything else about them. Essentially, it's a crapshoot.

Because of this, you might get great or terrible feedback. The person with whom you are conversing might turn out to be extremely insightful and give you some fantastic advice about your problems, or they could suggest something outlandish. If chat assistance is something you'd want to engage in, you should keep this in mind. Much like a blind date, you never know quite what to expect. The pairing could turn out to be wonderful, or it could be an unmitigated disaster.

What To Expect During A Session

When you use chat assistance, the individual with whom you are speaking will try and get you to open up. They are told to be friendly, so they're going to try and have you related to them whatever of import is happening in your life. You started the conversation because you wanted to talk, though, so presumably, this will be no problem for you.

If what you are talking about with them does not seem life-threatening, then you should get some earnest advice, though whether you'll choose to use it or not is entirely up to you. If you start to get into some territory where you're talking about harming yourself or others, though, then the person with whom you are chatting is almost certainly going to try and get you to talk to someone who is more qualified. You're meant to keep things fairly light in these sessions. For more serious issues, you're expected to go through more reputable channels for help.

The Dangers Of Chat Assistance And Safety

There are some dangers or drawbacks of chat assistance. The most significant one is when you have an individual who uses it, thinking that it is the same as getting advice from a licensed therapist. Chat assistance and chat therapy with a therapist are miles away from each other, and you should comprehend that if you choose to pursue this option. As long as you're careful, it shouldn't be a problem for you, though. On any of these sites that you visit, there are bound to be all sorts of warnings and fine print before you enter the chatroom. Because of liability issues, any of these sites will be sure to spell out that the people with whom you are chatting are not trained mental health professionals.

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The other potential problem that you might run into is that the person you are speaking might turn to be judgmental and might not even take your side when describing your problems. Most chat assistance sites instruct the people they use to be fair, impartial, and polite, advising the best of their abilities. Because these individuals have not received any real training, though, you never know quite what you will get from them.

Even if you weren't expecting top-notch advice as you'd get from a licensed therapist, you still might get some feedback that makes you feel worse about your problems than you did before you engaged in the chat. That's why, if you're trying to deal with serious issues, you should almost always avoid this type of situation. Chat therapy is not the same as traditional therapy, so never confuse the two.

Where Chat Assistance Fails

If you're thinking about whether to use chat assistance or prefer to seek out a more traditional therapist, you need to consider the seriousness of the issues that confront you. Let's say that you're experiencing persistent depression, for example. It's very likely that in that situation, you're going to want to talk to someone about what is troubling you, but probably it wouldn't be appropriate for you to use chat assistance.

You're going to want to use a traditional therapist because they have received the training necessary that if they feel you might need to be put on medication because of your symptoms, they can prescribe it. That will never be the case with someone with whom you're going to be matched with through chat assistance.

Couples' Therapy

If you're having problems with a spouse or significant other, then chances are you're going to want to use a traditional therapist as well. You can get in contact with one through ReGain.us if you'd care to do so. Someone via chat assistance can indeed give you advice or feedback about a problematic relationship situation that you are experiencing. However, you're probably going to be better off speaking to someone who has been trained and certified for relationship issues.

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The best advice is to use chat therapy mainly for entertainment purposes. Yes, you might get some great advice, but it's equally likely that you'll end up discarding the feedback that you receive. If you want someone to whom you can vent that you don't know personally, then chat assistance is fine. But if you want some serious advice from a well-qualified source, then you're almost always going to be better off with chat therapy, where you're talking with a qualified mental health expert.

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