It Is the MCO. I Can’t Go Out. Is Online Counseling Effective?

A roadblock being conducted during MCO in Malaysia

It Is the MCO. I Can't Go Out. Is Online Counseling Effective?

For another two weeks, the Klang Valley region is once again restricted in movement. An extension of this will not come as a surprise, considering what has been experienced in the first round of lockdowns. The implementation of the new CMCO is due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases. As of 14th October 2020, the number of new daily infections in Malaysia stands at 660 cases.

Staying indoors with limited access to other people, meaningful activities, and exercise, can put a strain on our mental health. General survey studies done on the impact of COVID-19 measures, such as social distancing and isolation, has led to concerns of increased depression, anxiety, stress, and other negative feelings.

Malaysians are starting to feel the fatigue of going through another round of the MCO. This, on top of economic and political worries, can be a big mental burden to carry on our own.

If one cannot go out to receive counseling and mental health services, what can be done about it?

A Good Therapeutic Relationship

Traditionally, face-to-face interactions happen during counseling sessions. Both therapist and client are able to feel a sense of genuine connection and social togetherness through this counseling process.

In fact, this positive feeling of “working together” can reliably predict positive treatment outcomes. The research found that this working relationship is a good predictor of beneficial therapy outcomes regardless of the type of therapy or method a client receives while in counseling sessions.

So, what happens when online counseling sessions are done instead? Considering the lack of physical presence (and perhaps unstable video/ audio streaming), will the therapist and client still be able to develop a good working relationship?

Is Online Counseling Effective?

While psychologists may worry that online sessions may affect their working relationship with clients, the evidence shows that it does not. Research has shown that online video sessions can be as effective as face-to-face sessions.

While both the therapist and client alike may prefer face-to-face sessions, doing it online can bring about equal effectiveness. Understandably, we could be feeling that pent-up restlessness due to working from home (WFH) or online studies. It would be great to head out and have a relieving conversation. But, such a scenario is not possible now. Instead, online counseling could instead bring about other benefits, such as:

  • convenience
  • privacy from our own room
  • accessible even if we are not nearby a mental health facility

There are currently a variety of private counseling centers offering online therapy. While the evidence of the effectiveness of online counseling is reassuring, you might consider trying it out yourself.