Introduction To Online Mental Health Counselling

Our mental health fundamentally colours our experiences and determines our day-to-day happiness as well as our long-term feelings of fulfilment and success.

In other words, mental health is really important.

However, mental health is still often misunderstood. You may have a very different idea of what constitutes mental health than your boss, your parents or your doctor.

Thankfully, the importance of mental health is becoming more recognised across our society. It is being taken more seriously than ever before. Whether in the workplace, on television, online or at home, the modern focus on mental health is a very good thing.

People who want to work on their mental health with a professional have more options today than they did in the past. No longer is therapy only for the privileged. In fact, through online video therapy, you can talk to somebody without ever leaving the comfort of your home.

In this guide we want to talk about:

  • What mental health is
  • Why it is important
  • Some tips to improve your mental health from home
  • How you can use counselling (in particular online counselling) to improve your mental health

Mental Health Definitions

What is mental health? It is not easy to provide a strict definition. In fact, in 2001 the World Health Organisation stated in a report that “it is nearly impossible to define mental health comprehensively.”

They continued that it is “generally agreed that mental health is broader than a lack of mental disorders.”

Mental health is a broad catch-all that can include the presence or absence of a mental disorder, but also covers more subtle components of our everyday well-being.

WHO has also given the following description of mental health:

“...a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community...”

Broadly, we think it is best to think of mental health as a scale that indicates whether or not you feel you can handle the demands of life.

What Are Some Examples of Negative Mental Health?

To explain what mental health is, it may be helpful to give examples of negative mental health conditions.

The mental health charity Mind gives several examples of poor mental health.
Do any of these apply to you?

  • Suffering regular and/or intense anxiety?
  • Problems controlling your anger?
  • Having panic attacks?
  • Bad feelings about your body/body dysmorphic disorder?
  • Feeling depressed?
  • Hearing voices?
  • Feeling lonely or isolated?
  • Having phobias or paranoia?
  • Trouble sleeping?
  • Engaging in self-harm practices?

Why is Mental Health Important?

Mental health problems can range from mild to severe. On the severe end of the spectrum, the consequences can include self-harm and suicide.

It is hard to determine how many people feel they suffer from mental health problems. A 2009 HNS report concluded that 1 in 4 adults in the UK has a “psychiatric disorder”. Though 25% is already a large number, it all depends on the definition you use for mental health.

It has sometimes been said, including by the UK government, that there is “no health without mental health”.

In this sense, just as we should all pay attention to our physical health even if we don’t have an injury, we should all pay attention to our mental health, even if we don’t have a mental health disorder.

Working on your mental health means working on your happiness and fulfilment. If you ask us, that is something we should all do.

How to improve mental health at home

Mental health problems are complex and usually need lots of work, a long-term focus, and a personalised approach.

However, science and experience have proven that there are a few things we can do that reliably improve mental health for almost everybody, at least in the short term. These include:

  • Talking more with people who care about you
  • Moving your body more and spending time outside
  • Practising good sleep habits
  • Staying engaged with work that you find fulfilling and meaningful
  • Demonstrating generosity and gratitude
  • Being mindful of your thoughts and feelings

It can be helpful to remember that your mental and physical health are linked. Some elements of depression and other mental health concerns are physical or chemical in nature. Just for example, failing to take in the right vitamins (such as vitamin D) is associated with a decline in mental well-being. That is why good diet and exercise is such an important part of mental health.

Ideally, we should look at our mental health physically (exercise, diet and sleep), mentally (mindfulness and self-discovery) and socially (talking about your issues and connecting with people).

Managing mental health during a crisis

In scientific journal Nature, clinical psychologist Desiree Dickerson gives further tips for managing mental health during stressful situations such as the coronavirus pandemic. As well as encouraging some of the above advice (maintaining connections, being mindful etc), Dickerson makes these two excellent suggestions:

  • Manage your expectations
  • Maintain a routine

As well as these, there are also reliable interventions starting with talking therapies and counselling and progressing to medications for those that need it.

Using online counselling to improve mental health

As discussed above, for those who want help managing their mental health, one of the most effective external sources of help outside of your friends and family is a licensed therapist or counsellor.

Of course, at E-Therapy our expertise is with online therapy, which we will talk about more in detail below. Remember that there are a wide range of therapy options available, and different options will be a better fit for different people. In the UK, the government IAPT (e Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) programme is one way to get access to mental health treatments, especially if you are suffering from depression or an anxiety disorder.

We do think online therapy helps lower the barriers to getting help by being more convenient and available at a lower cost, and is a great place to start if you are considering private therapy.

Who is mental health counselling for?

Therapy is not just for those with explicit, conspicuous psychological disorders. It is also there for everyday wellbeing, health and maintenance, as well as prevention of developing more serious issues at a later date.

As we said before, “there is no health without mental health”. You shouldn’t just wait until there is a problem before you start paying attention to your mental health.

Does online counselling improve mental health?

As part of a 2012 psychotherapy effectiveness review, the American Psychological Association cited over 50 peer-reviewed studies and came to the conclusions that:

  • “...psychotherapy reduces disability, morbidity and mortality; improves work functioning; and decreases psychiatric hospitalization.”
  • “The average effects of psychotherapy are larger than the effects produced by many medical treatments.”
  • “Psychotherapy teaches patients life skills that last beyond the course of treatment. The results of psychotherapy tend to last longer than psychopharmacological treatments and rarely produce harmful side effects.”
  • “While medication is appropriate in some instances, research shows that a combination of medication and psychotherapy is often most effective in treating depression and anxiety.”

Some studies indicate that 80% to 90% of people that take up therapy have better outcomes than those who receive little or no treatment.

In 2018, a number of researchers conducted a study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders. It was a meta study, meaning that it reviewed the data of a large number of independent studies to try and draw conclusions from a wide range of data. They concluded that internet-delivered CBT was just as effective as face-to-face CBT.

Therapy and online therapy can considerably improve mental wellbeing and feelings of happiness and fulfilment across most demographics, for both big issues and small.

How does somebody find an online mental health counsellor?

There are a variety of ways of find private online therapy and counselling to help with your mental health issues:

  1. You can visit a reliable, specialist online therapy provider platform like E-Therapy, who connect patients with registered therapists and counsellors via video calls
  2. You can search BCAP’s register of psychotherapists and filter by those that offer online sessions.
  3. You can use alternative trusted directories like Happiful’s Counselling Directory which offer a broad range of services including holistic therapies, some of which will be available online.

In the complex, high-paced world of today, mental health has never been more important. Don’t like your mental health issues, small or large, get in the way of living your life to the fullest.

Further Reading:
If you want to learn more about mental health, consider visiting our blog