How Is Online Couples Therapy Possible?

By Jon Jaehnig|Updated July 12, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Nicole Gaines, LPC

Nearly every relationship can, at one time or another, benefit from a little outside help. When two people manage to admit this and start planning their next step, a kind of breakthrough has already been reached and this bodes well for the health and growth of both individuals as well as their relationship.

What exactly this next step will consist of can be a difficult choice, however, and can vary drastically depending on several factors, including the people involved in the relationship and the particular troubles being experienced. Your relationship type, your personalities, how long you have been together, and other factors can all change what this next step will look like for you as a couple. Until recently, where you lived was one of these factors. Your geographic location could contribute to determining your access to things like couples counseling. However, online therapy helps to break geographic barriers, and offers advantages in terms of cost and convenience…but is it effective? Let’s dig deeper.

How Does Online Couples Therapy Work?

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Therapy has traditionally taken place in person, so the idea of online couples therapy can sound a little strange. Let’s start with the basics.

Different platforms work differently, but here is how ReGain works. In online couples counseling, you sign into the service and are matched with a counselor based on your answers to a short questionnaire. However, because different couples have different preferences, you can usually get a new counselor if the first one that you are matched with doesn’t work for you for any reason.

Once you have set up your profile, you can choose whether or not to invite your partner. Of course, you and your partner may decide together to enter into couples counseling. Alternatively, you may start online couples counseling on your own and invite your partner later – or not. There’s nothing wrong with undergoing couples counseling as an individual, but the process usually works best when both partners are actively involved.

From there, the process resembles a chatroom or message board in other social media sites. You and your partner enter text on a private page that is only visible to you and your counselor. Your therapist responds either within designated session timeframes, or when they are available outside of designated sessions. You are also able to fully delete any messages that you send, if desired.

If your counselor is online when you type your message, they can respond immediately, similar to the live chat services offered by many websites. If your counselor is not online or in session with another client when you post, then they can see your post and respond the next time that they are available.

Some people like this system because they can take time to really think about and craft their thoughts and messages or to write longer messages without feeling like they are keeping their counselor waiting. If this doesn’t sound like it’s for you, you can always try to set up text or video appointments with your online counselor by scheduling a time to both be available – similar to scheduling an appointment with a counselor whom you see in person.

Is Personal Touch That Important?

While in-person therapy has been the standard for many years, recent research suggests that online counseling – when it is performed by a licensed and experienced mental health provider – can be just as effective as face-to-face counseling.

Carl Jung, one of the founders of psychoanalysis, found that he could achieve better results with his patients if they sat with their backs to him. In couples counseling, the therapist’s role is that of a sounding board and advisor, not an active participant. In this way, some couples find that the level of detachment available in online counseling can be helpful.

This is especially true in couples counseling because some people are worried that their couples therapist might be “picking sides.” Not being in the same room as your couples therapist during the sessions can help to make the couples therapist feel more like a neutral agent. Further, some people feel like talking to a couples therapist over the internet helps them feel more comfortable with the situation. Couples counseling can be scary or nerve wracking, and going to an office can be intimidating. Talking to a couples therapist over the internet can feel more like asking a friend for advice, rather than sitting in an office setting in-person.

And as mentioned above, if you do feel like you need to feel as though your couples therapist is there with you rather than just sending typed replies, you can always try to schedule voice or video calls, as most Regain therapists utilize these modes of therapy, as well.

Doesn’t Online Couple’s Therapy Hinder Communication?

Unless utilizing video chat, the online therapy medium precludes picking up body language cues, and text messages can’t convey a tone of voice. However, this can turn out to be less of a disadvantage than you might think.

The largest part of couple’s therapy is indeed learning how to communicate more effectively, and an important aspect of this is simply learning to say exactly what you mean. Writing down your thoughts instead of speaking forces you to examine just what your desires, feelings, and expectations are. This process means having to slow down and think about what you want to express instead of blurting out whatever comes to mind. It’s sort of like journaling in a way in that it allows you to see and actively process your thoughts and feelings, but with a therapist on the other end to further help you!

How Do You Know You’re Talking To Someone Qualified?

If you are considering online couples therapy or marriage counseling, you’re probably wondering if online counselors are as qualified as in-person therapists. The short answer is yes! Although it varies by platform, most online therapists are also in-person therapists who have decided to grow their practice by taking clients from everywhere in the country – and even the world – not just the city or state they live in.

Different websites have different criteria for their workers. Some of them rely entirely on volunteers who may or may not have any formal training at all. In the United States and most other countries, it happens to be illegal to call yourself a licensed counselor without a minimum of an advanced master’s degree and substantial practical experience, meaning that online services that are responsible for vetting their therapists’ credentials will only employ people with the same qualifications you would expect of anyone in the profession.

The good news is that because of the legal requirements involved with online counseling, most websites that offer these services say up-front what kind of qualifications they require their counselors to hold and how their counselors are vetted. You should always read up on the website before you use it so that you can understand exactly what you are getting before you start.

Regain, for example, only accepts licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists (PhD / PsyD), licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), licensed clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), or licensed professional therapists (LPC or LPCC). All Regain therapists have a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in their field. They have been qualified and certified by their state's professional board after successfully completing the necessary education, exams, training, and practice. While their experience, expertise, and background vary, all Regain therapists possess at least 3 years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience. Given that Regain specializes in relationships, all of our therapists also have a specific interest and expertise in relationship therapy and are happy to work with either individuals or couples.

If you are a particularly thorough person, you can always try to check a counselor’s credentials yourself. The majority of them will have profiles on professional networks like LinkedIn, although most counselors would likely not appreciate your finding them on social media sites like Facebook. You can also try to contact the state organization that licensed them to practice. This can be quite a bit of work, but it’s reasonable to be cautious of people who you meet online, especially if you are going to be trusting them with your mental health, personal information, and the health of your relationship.

The Benefits Of Online Counseling

Talk To A Couples Therapist From The Comfort Of Your Own Home

Many couples prefer receiving online relationship counseling. Opening up about your relationship with a stranger is usually difficult, but the anonymity the internet offers can make this significantly easier, meaning that progress can be made more rapidly.

Another factor is simply that it becomes unnecessary for both of you to make time for an appointment during office hours. You can talk to someone experienced in helping couples at any time, from wherever you are.

That’s perhaps one of the biggest benefits of online relationship counseling. Many relationships run into trouble when they are being carried out over long distances as is required sometimes because partners are studying or working apart from one another. If the distance is a problem for your relationship, there’s no possible way that both of you could attend couples therapy together in any way other than online.

Last but not least, traditional therapy is expensive. It’s possible to use an online service for months for what a single session with an office-bound counselor can run to. It may seem easy to make jokes about “cheap therapy” but, as discussed above, all kinds of couples can benefit from couple’s therapy, not just wealthy couples. Now, thanks to online relationship counseling, therapy is affordable for everyone even without insurance.

Click here to learn more about starting relationship counseling online with ReGain.

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