The Complete Guide
Becoming an Online Counselor / Therapist

Online counseling has never been more popular, and the demand for therapists willing to work with patients over the Internet continues to grow. Online or offline, becoming a counselor can be hard work and thankfully you don’t have to go at it alone. This guide is here to show you everything you need to know about becoming an online therapist.

Each chapter of this book is dedicated to a particular area or concern of online therapy, and combined, they provide you with a nice overview of all the major considerations you need to take into account when deciding if this is the career path for you. The subjects range from potential salaries, to how to best sell your services to others, and should give you a good idea about what you can expect from a career in online therapy. Since this is still a developing field, you will be hard-pressed to find a guide as up-to-date or comprehensive as ours.

Is Becoming a Counselor / Therapist Right For You?
If you are a person who is very interested in psychology, self-awareness and self-improvement, and you also have the desire to help others with their problems, becoming a counselor may be the right career path for you. Counselors dedicate their lives to helping others with their problems, which can prove to be emotionally taxing or even damaging if you’re not prepared for it. It's important to do your research about the field of counseling and therapy before diving head first into this rewarding career.
What is Online Counseling?
Like the name implies, online counseling is any sort of mental health service that is provided online. Typically, these counseling sessions will take place over email, text chat, or video chat, but as our technology improves and progresses, so do the mediums with which we can offer therapeutic services. In its earliest days, online counseling was often used in conjunction with the more traditional, face-to-face therapy, but it is also coming to be seen as a service that can stand alone as well. This type of therapy is often seen as beneficial because it is lower-cost and has the ability to reach patients who might not otherwise seek treatment.
What Types of Counseling Takes Place Online?
There are a couple different ways in which a patient can seek out therapy online. The first is similar to a more traditional doctor-patient relationship, where an individual meets with a therapist over a long period of time during which the therapist will attempt to develop rapport with the patient and explore their emotions, hopes, fears, etc. The second kind of online therapy takes more of a Q and A type format. A patient writes in with a specific problem and the therapist replies with a one-time answer. Both forms of therapy can be combined by the online counselor to widen their patient base.
Education, Training, and Licensing Requirements
Training to become an online therapist can vary quite a bit from person to person. Because of the relatively new nature of the field, many states do not have established guidelines for becoming an online counselor, which means that it’s up to the individual to be in charge of their education. Ideally, an online therapist would have the same training as a real-world therapist—including a psychology degree and another advanced degree in therapy or counseling. The most important thing to remember is to gain the knowledge need to truly help your clients and present credentials to show your clients you are legitimately qualified.
How Much Does an Online Counselor Make?
As with real-world counseling, the salaries of online counselors can vary quite a bit depending on your location and qualifications. If you are just starting out in the field, you shouldn’t expect to be making as much as someone who has 10+ years of experience, who might pull in upwards of $100,000 annually. Instead, you can expect to make somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000. If you are working independently as an online therapist, you have the power to set prices for your services, which means that you will have at least a little more control over your income than a therapist working for a larger organization.
Starting Your Own Online Counseling Business
Starting an online therapy practice poses some unique problems. For one, since your services are taking place over the Internet, having a webpage is absolutely essential. If you don’t have much experience with web design, then you will need to hire a site developer who can provide you with an extremely professional and functional site. Similarly, you will need to find ways to advertise your services to potential clients, which might take the form of anything from email solicitation to social media posts. You can also utilize a freelance content creator to update a blog for you regularly which can help improve your Google ranking. And if you're holding face to face sessions via an internet connection, you'll obviously need to have a seamless set up with proper equipment and network support.
Marketing Your Services
Since your services are taking place online, it makes sense to use technology as much as possible to market your services to potential clients. Search engine optimization is one of the best ways to spread the word about your practice online. SEO involves utilizing popular keyword searches in the content of your website. However, just because you are working online, doesn’t mean that real-world advertising can’t be useful as well. Something as simple as an ad in the Yellow Pages can be an effective way to generate new business. If you’re having trouble with your marketing and you have the budget for it, you might consider hiring an outside consultant.
Growing your Online Counseling Business and Retaining Clients

One tried and true method of getting people interested in your counseling services is through the use of seminars, or in the case of online therapy, “webinars.” By hosting events that focus around the services you offer or problems you address, you can give potential clients just enough information to be interested in pursuing more treatment with you. It’s also important not to underestimate the power of “word of mouth” recommendations. Many clients may not feel comfortable talking to their friends about family about counseling services, but encourage those who are to recommend you.

When it comes to retaining clients, collecting contact information is obviously one of the most important things you can do so you can inform your clients about new services or changes to services that you offer, and most importantly, try to reach out to clients whom you haven’t heard from in a while. But more and more counselors are becoming concerned with the ethics surrounding client retention. The links below contain strategies for selecting and retaining clients, something that is at the fore-front of every therapist's mind who goes into private practice.

What Does the Future Hold for Online Counseling?
While the field of online therapy is still new and it will be hard to predict the exact future of the field, it shows signs of growth and expansion. Many people are skeptical about more traditional forms of therapy or are worried about the social stigma associated with seeking help, so online therapy provides a service that can address a currently unmet need. Plus, within the last decade, the number of online therapy services available has skyrocketed. Only time can tell us the fate of online therapy, but from all accounts, it appears that it is becoming more popular and widely accepted.
Bonus Chapter: Just for Fun
While conducting therapy sessions online or via email once seemed far fetched, it's clear that it has become a valid form of treatment for many people. Even Hollywood has caught on and has developed a show, albeit a comedy, based on a therapist and her 3 minute client sessions conducted solely through iChat. Starring Lisa Kudrow and with guest appearances by many famous actors such as Rosie O'Donnell, Courtney Cox, Conan O'Brien, Minnie Driver, Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep and more, Web Therapy is a comedic and unrealistic look into the client patient relationship and is good for more than a few laughs.