With the physical barriers that we as disabled people face in the world, and emotional ups and downs life brings, counsellor Helen Rutherford talks about how online therapy can be greatly beneficial.
As someone with a disability, I understand first hand how it can give you a unique set of emotional challenges, as well as physical ones, on a daily basis. I also believe that looking after your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health. But in my experience, there has always been a bias towards supporting the physical needs of a disabled person, but not their psychological needs.
This made me reflect on what barriers there are for disabled people when it comes to accessing this sort of support. Specialist services available across the UK are limited, and numerous obstacles stand in our way, including the cost, availability, accessibility, the ability to attend regular appointments, and how tiring it can be physically. It’s clear that more needs to be done to make professional services accessible for disabled people.
There also needs to be a real understanding of the challenges disabled people face that may affect our mental health. I am sure many of you can relate to the scenario of meeting a professional who lacks the understanding needed to promote real change for you. There is a gap in services and I feel passionate about highlighting this to other professionals so that more can be done.
In addition, disabled people don’t always get everything they’re entitled to because they’re often not told about the resources available to them. Did you know, for example, that if you are in receipt of direct payments or a personal budget, that you can ask your social worker if you can use part of your budget to support your mental well-being? You may have to have a re-assessment in order to be able to include this in your budget, but if it is something you feel would benefit you, you are entitled to it.
This, of course, takes more time and resources. But there is another option too – online counselling.
Online services can remove many of the barriers standing in the way of face-to-face support services. Accessing psychological support online is convenient and can fit around daily life as an inclusive resource.
The benefits of accessing online therapy may include:
- It can be cheaper than traditional services.
- It can be accessed using assistive technology.
- It can offer greater privacy.
- It can be done alone, thus promoting independence.
- It can offer a safe platform for you to disclose any neglect or abuse.
- It promotes client well-being, autonomy, self-development empowerment.
- It is flexible so you can manage your therapy and access it when you feel able to and when you need it most.
Online therapy can be delivered by video conferencing, audio, email and instant chat. This may allow much more people to access support who might not otherwise be able to. More online resources are becoming available all the time, offering you the flexibility to get support when you need it.
Online therapy can help you through those difficult days when you’re not able to talk to the people closest to you for fear of upsetting them. It can help you explore thoughts and feelings, without having to take the plunge of venturing out for appointments. It can be a lifeline when going out to see a professional isn’t possible.
Therapy, whether online or in person, offers individuals a place to feel fully accepted and supported in a non-judgemental environment. Thoughts and feelings directly impact on your mood and ability to cope, therefore talking through these issues can help you to deal with your distress and encourage positive change. Therapy can help restore an individual’s sense of self, promoting their independence, increasing their self-esteem and confidence once more.
By Helen Rutherford
MBACP register (No.065042)