Can you be anonymous in counseling?
Yes, the wonders of the internet now allow us to be anonymous and unknown in counselling. In this blog, we will look at what anonymity in counselling is, how anonymity helps and the advantages and disadvantages of being anonymous in counselling.
Places that offer anonymous counselling services include:
- Better help
- Chat rooms
What is anonymous counselling?
A lot of clients desire to remain anonymous for a variety of reasons. Some people are hesitant and prefer to remain nameless. When they realise they won’t be identified, they open up more freely. Especially when discussing sensitive topics such as sexual issues or other ‘taboos.’ In internet counselling, anonymity as well as the physical distance between the client and the psychologist may be highly beneficial.
When clients select anonymous counselling, they often open up about their concerns rather easily once they realise that they won’t be or can’t be found. There are multiple reasons for people to Chose anonymity, this may be to keep clear gaps between professional and personal lives, to keep themselves safe from abusive partners or parents, to remain in control and feel secure in knowing that they will be anonymous, all of this can really help bridge the gap of limitations that occur in face-to-face counselling.
- Research by Hanley et al in 2016 found that young people were more likely to set personal growth goals when working online. The authors questioned whether this was down to the more explorative and slower paced nature of online therapy, based on research by Bambling et al.
- The Education Policy Institute’s 2017 report quoted this research. It stated that: “16.9 percent of the goals set by young people using online counselling were related to intimate relationships whereas none of the goals set by those using face-to-face services were related to this. This may indicate that young people are more willing to discuss these more personal issues in the anonymous context of online counselling.”
- A recent report from the Education Policy Institute asked young people why they chose online counselling. Almost half of the reasons given were associated with anonymity. Most said they wanted to discuss their issues without their parents or anyone else knowing.
- Similar to this, another research study done by Kah P. Wong studied ‘Preferences for Online and/or Face-to-Face Counseling among University Students in Malaysia’ and found that approximately 35% of participants reported that they would be likely to utilize online counseling services but would be unlikely to participate in face-to-face counseling. Based on these results, it is suggested that offering online counseling, in addition to face-to-face services, could be an effective way for many university counseling centers to increase the utilization of their services and thus better serve their communities.
Advantages and disadvantages of anonymity in counselling
Some key advantages are:
- Anonymous counselling is correlated to online counselling, which makes it easily accessible and flexible as well as time and cost effective.
- Patients can participate in Web-based therapies anonymously wherever and whenever they choose, reducing treatment obstacles and allowing for the exploration of alternative treatment options for psychological issues.
- Online counselling has shown promising results in helping clients deal with their problems.
- Anonymous therapy offers access to mental health treatment to people in rural or remote areas. Especially those who live in rural areas simply might not have access to any other form of mental health treatment.
- It helps overcome cultural barriers and issues of social stigma around mental health.
- The internet makes mental health treatment more approachable. It helps with changing the internalized pressure we might feel when asking for help.
- Online therapy provides accessibility to individuals who are disabled or housebound.
Disadvantages of anonymity in counselling may include:
- Because information is sent across the internet, privacy breaches and hackers are becoming increasingly common. Problems with technology might sometimes make it tough to get help when one truly needs it.
- Since online therapists are distant from the client and don’t know any personal information about them, it can be difficult for them to respond quickly and effectively when a crisis happens.
- When using anonymous counselling, it might take away from the full context of the issue at hand. Context is a very important factor of therapy, this might bring in a few obstacles in the process.
- Online therapy eliminates geographic restraints, making the enforcement of legal and ethical codes difficult.
- Low Patient engagement and high dropout rates are also internal challenges frequently encountered in online therapy.
Online Anonymous Counselling Resources
This free online counseling website provides access to trained volunteers who offer non-therapeutic advice. Anyone can sign up for a free membership to 7 Cups, even teenagers who are looking for other (trained) teenagers to lend them listening ears.
They provide an anonymous and free texting service open 24/7. They match you with a licensed and experienced mental health practitioner after which you can take counselling at your own pace.
Kooth.com is commissioned by the NHS, Local Authorities, charities and businesses to provide anonymous and personalised mental health support for Children and Young People.
They provide several services for counselling including mental health magazines, discussion boards and daily journals. They also provide insight into their team and their practitioners along with their licenses and qualifications.
Depending on what you’re looking for, BetterHelp offers counseling for individuals, couples, or families. You create an account and fill out a questionnaire to find the right match. BetterHelp operates on a subscription basis, with prices based on the length of time you commit to using the service.
The subscription offers members unlimited free counseling sessions via messaging, chat, phone or video, and costs between $35 and $80 per week depending on your plan.
Talkspace is a digital behavioral technology healthcare company. Its signature psychotherapy product connects individual clients with a network of thousands of licensed therapists through an easy-to-use and HIPAA-compliant web and mobile platform.
With Talkspace, clients can send their dedicated therapists text, video, and voice messages anytime, from anywhere, and engage in live video sessions. Talkspace allows you to choose from a range of their licensed therapists to make an informed choice.
There are hotlines that can help you with general mental health concerns and with specific problems, like abuse or suicide. The Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health provides a list of available hotlines. A few that are available 24/7 include:
- The Crisis Call Center: 775-784-8090
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
Online chat rooms
eTherapyPro is an online therapy platform that connects patients with appropriate licensed professional therapists. New patients begin by filling out a detailed questionnaire to get matched with the right counselor within 24 hours.
The counselors on the platform specialize in various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, grief, relationships, and low self-esteem. Each counselor works with their individual patients to set achievable goals and outline a plan to get there.
TalkwithStranger! differs from the other platforms on this list in that it’s not a designated counseling app. The platform aims to offer a place where strangers can come together and talk about anything in the world, including their problems.
People can join networks with other like-minded individuals using features such as follow, upvote, comment, and reply. The platform also allows participants to create their own profiles, save their chat histories, send photos and videos, and join interested groups.
BlahTherapy is a web-based healthcare service that provides therapy sessions, online emotional support chat forums, and psychic readings. Patients can use the free Chat With Strangers service to chat with their peers anonymously or as listeners.
For a little cost, online counselling sessions are offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Depression, relationships, stress and anxiety, grieving, parenting challenges, LGBTQ+ struggles, marriage troubles, addiction recovery, eating disorders, poor self-esteem, abuse, personality disorders, and personal development are among the areas that certified therapists on the platform specialise in.
- Free online therapy
Free Online Therapy is a fully free online mental health platform that also offers paid sessions with professional certified therapists. The platform provides therapy for individuals and couples who are having relationship problems.
Free therapy chat rooms with volunteer members are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the site. Individual or couple sessions with a qualified therapist are also available.
Finally, opting for anonymous counselling adds a degree of protection and secrecy to the process. This is also true for customers who do not want their conversations with a psychologist to be public. Some clients don’t want their family or partners to know that they’re seeing a therapist.
Others are concerned about future insurance and professional opportunities, as some will regretfully be unavailable to individuals who have had treatment. Although there are a variety of reasons why people choose anonymous counselling, the method is always the same.