Online counselling​ and diabetes

What it is and why it might be a good option for people living with diabetes

By Dr Elizabeth Holmes-Truscott

What is online counselling?

These days, it is common for people to use various technologies to access mental health information, resources and services. ‘eMental health’ also commonly referred to as ‘digital mental health’, refers to the use of technologies such as the internet, mobile devices, telephones and computers to promote psychological well-being. Mobile and internet technologies, in particular, have improved the accessibility of communication for the delivery of mental health resources and services. Increasingly, people are accessing therapeutic services (e.g. ‘seeing’ a psychologist) via telephone, email, instant messaging and video-chat (sometimes called telehealth, telemedicine or online counselling).

Is online counselling effective?

Research suggests that e-mental health programs can be effective. In fact, a systematic review of online therapy compared to face-to-face therapy concluded that the two are largely equivalent in their effectiveness. Other studies have found internet and mobile-based interventions have been shown to reduce depressive symptoms among people with diagnosed depression and specifically among people with diabetes.

Who might use online counselling?

Online counselling can be particularly helpful for people who are geographically isolated (e.g. living in rural/remote areas), unable to travel due to illness or disability, or who are unable to travel to a face-to-face service due to time restraints/other responsibilities. For people living with diabetes, there is a limited number of mental health professionals who have a specialist understanding of diabetes. Online counselling increases access to diabetes-specific psychology services. We are aware of are two such services that are currently offered online. These are: The Diabetes e-Psychology Service and Diabetes Clinical Psychology.

What are the costs of online counselling?

Despite the advantages of online counselling, it is important to recognise that this type of service may not be suitable for everyone. First, online counselling is not covered by Medicare (except for those in certain rural or remote areas). While there are ongoing efforts to include online counselling as a Medicare item, for the meantime, online counselling fees are completely out-of-pocket. Some private health insurance funds may provide a rebate, however this is dependent on your insurance policy. In addition, clients with acute problems (e.g. at high risk of harm to self or others) are not suited to online counselling, and should be assessed and treated by a mental health professional in person.

To learn more about online counselling, you can read this article written for The Conversation, titled ‘Is online therapy as good as talking face-to-face with a clinician?

If you are considering seeking mental health support, it can help to speak with your general practitioner or diabetes health professional first. They may offer some advice or information that can assist you in making the right decision for you.

Disclosure: ‘The Diabetes e-Psychology Service’ is run by Psychologist Dr Adriana Ventura, who is a former Research Fellow at the ACBRD.

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