Would you like to start therapy but don't want to spill your guts to a stranger? For decades, going to a therapist's office was the only way to do therapy. You could stay anonymous only on support hotlines or calling a radio advisor, but these were one-time conversations. But with online counseling services, anonymous therapy became a real thing.
Staying Anonymous in Online Therapy
There are many reasons why you would like to stay unknown. Maybe you feel intimidated to talk about your problems with another person. Perhaps your society considers it shameful to talk about some struggles. Or you don't need to hide your identity from a therapist but simply want to ensure that no one will find out you are undergoing therapy.
Online therapy is often a perfect solution for anyone who wants to talk to a therapist anonymously. You don't have to tell your real name when you introduce yourself; you don't even need to show your face. Email and messaging therapy can offer the highest level of anonymity possible. All you need to reveal in these conversations are your thoughts, feelings, and your story.
For those seeking to remain incognito, online therapy platforms and apps are the most secure way to go, because individual therapists will usually see who transfers money to them.
Online counseling is also very flexible. You can choose between texting and voice or video calling. If you have a change of heart and would like to see your therapist's face or hear their voice, you can always switch.
However, keep in mind that not every anonymous support is a quality therapy. Some sites have rooms that allow you to post your problem and get an answer, such as Reddit. While you can find qualified therapists volunteering there, many people just share their personal opinion. This could also be a source of guidance for you, but sometimes, it can do more harm than good.
These people are not trained to work with others in therapeutic relationships. Their advice may arise out of their personal experiences that won't work for you, it can be affected by prejudices or even wicked incentives. You can also encounter these risks in online anonymous chat therapy sites. While most of them connect you with a trained listener, there is always a chance that their responses can be inappropriate or at the wrong time and make the situation worse.
Should You Choose Anonymity or Confidentiality?
All online counseling platforms state that they ensure privacy and confidentiality, and some even say that their therapy is anonymous. What is the difference between them, and what is the best for you?
What Is Confidential Therapy?
Confidentiality ensures that none of your personal information will be shared with any third parties unless required by law. It's similar to in-person therapy – your therapist knows who you are, your address, and your emergency contact, but will protect this information. They are not allowed to share your data, use it for non-therapeutic purposes, and have to make sure that it's stored securely.
However, in-person therapy is not secured from accidents. An acquaintance can pass by while you are exiting your therapist's office. You can even meet one of them in a waiting room. With confidential online therapy, you get more control over protecting your privacy from other people.
If you are satisfied with this level of security, you have many online therapy options to choose from. Just make sure that they are HIPAA compliant.
What Is Anonymous Therapy?
Anonymous therapy has to ensure that no one will know who you are, including a therapist. These counseling services do not collect any personal information. But anonymity takes effort from both sides. You may want to register with an email address not related to your name, as they may collect these emails in databases that could, theoretically, be hacked. You may also need to have created a strong password, keep it secure, and change it often enough.
Is Anonymous Therapy Really Anonymous?
Sadly, not always. Sometimes, online therapy services state that everyone can use them anonymously but, in the end, ask you to provide some personal information, such as your residential address. Most online platforms can offer only confidential therapy because therapists need to report emergency cases to the authorities.
However, there are anonymous therapy services that don't collect any personal information. When choosing a provider, investigate their website to figure out the level of privacy they can offer to you.
Is Online Therapy Effective?
Can anonymous therapy online be as helpful as going to see a therapist? Psychologists now agree that video or audio sessions are as effective as in-person therapy. You don't have to sit in the same room as a therapist to tell them what they need to know to help you. For most of the problems, such as depression or anxiety, talking is completely enough. Phobias or OCD may, on the other hand, benefit more from exposure therapy, that is not yet available online.
But what if you are not ready to see someone face-to-face? Can a therapist help you without seeing your gestures, not even listening to your speech? Is texting really enough?
We have looked for research that investigated messaging therapy. A recent study found that texting with a therapist does help with depression and anxiety. Another research paper with participants suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found that treatment via messages had similar results to traditional therapy.
However, messaging therapy can be a little slower than direct communication. You will have to describe your problem at first, and your therapist will have to ask questions. Most messaging therapies ensure several responses a day, and it can take a week just to get to know each other. To speed things up, make sure you provide your therapist with as many details that you think will be relevant as possible.
If you are not ready to share your personal experiences with someone face-to-face, an anonymous therapy chat is an effective and secure way to get help. Sometimes, it can even be better than traditional therapy.
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Anonymous Therapy Benefits
Getting help for psychological problems is still sometimes considered a stigma. Not being able to deal with all mental health struggles alone is taken as a failure. But does anyone expect you to mend your broken leg? What some people do in an attempt to overcome mental disorders on their own is analogous to attempting to mend broken bones. Sometimes without even expressing too much pain so that others wouldn't feel uncomfortable. This often leads to deeper problems in the future.
Your brain is a part of your body. It can get sick, and its malfunction can manifest in many different ways: from physical pain to mental problems. The environment can also cause physical or mental struggles. Just like you are more likely to get sick during flu season, your anxiety can skyrocket in a very stressful environment. But if you are not ready to let others know that you, as a distinct individual, need support, that's okay.
Anonymity allows people to seek help without making others know it's them who are feeling bad. This is especially important for people struggling with issues that are considered shameful or even forbidden, such as sexual problems, anger, or crimes.
Anonymity also helps open up faster. People may feel ready to share their deepest thoughts with someone, but when they are in front of a therapist, shame or fear of a negative reaction may cause them to filter their thoughts. With messaging therapy, you can have as much time as you need to write things down. You can edit and delete to ensure that you are saying what you really want to say. This makes therapy progress much faster.
Online therapy, in general, shows faster progress speed, as it allows you to connect with a therapist daily. You are not limited by half an hour to an hour session to say everything you wanted to say. If you forget something important, you can always update your therapist by sending a message.
Will Anonymous Therapy Help Me?
While anonymous online therapy is effective in many cases, it may not be suitable for everyone. If you are struggling with severe mental health problems, such as major depressive disorder, or schizophrenia, seek in-person support. Online therapy is also not suitable for people considering suicide, experiencing abuse, and for those in emergency situations. If you would like to get medication, you can do that online, but you will have to reveal your identity.
Anonymous Therapy Is Here for You
Anonymous therapy serves a meaningful purpose – it offers help for people who otherwise wouldn't seek help. Many online therapy sites understand the need for privacy and offer some level of it. While most of them can't guarantee complete anonymity, there are a few that can. If you never felt comfortable enough to call for a therapy appointment, you can always talk to a therapist anonymously via our secure app.