Is there such a thing as anonymous online counseling?
October 29, 2014 7:57 AM   Subscribe

I find myself unable to be fully candid speaking in person with therapists and wonder if I might do better corresponding with a therapist online by e-mail or chat or something. Does this exist? Would you recommend it? Is there a better idea?

I've been struggling with depression and have finally found a counselor who I like and respect and who seems insightful. He's already helped me get better in some ways. But I find I am unable to be fully candid with him. I'm too vain, too embarrassed, to talk about the depths of my pettiness and selfishness and self-defeating behaviors.

I'm not talking about anything illegal and I'm not suicidal or violent.

I've had this problem with therapists (and confessors) before. Even when I manage to blurt out things that I didn't think I could say, it hasn't led to me feeling able to be fully candid in the future with that person. Even with a therapist, I can't stop pretending I'm doing better than I am. I can't say out loud all the things I'm thinking and feeling.

So I'm wondering if there would be a way to do therapy that's not face-to-face, if maybe I would be able to talk freely if I were typing to someone anonymously. I don't know if that exists, or whether it would be a good idea if it did. Does anyone have experience with this? Or have any other ideas about how I might approach this situation?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty Padded Room might be what you are looking for.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:08 AM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had this issue with a previous therapist, and he suggested that I write stuff down journal-style, and then give it to him without re-reading/editing at all. I don't know if that would feel easier for you, but it really worked for me. We didn't do it forever, but for a couple of sessions it was a good way to break through feeling embarassed about initiating the conversation about certain things.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:10 AM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

posted by jacquilynne at 8:13 AM on October 29, 2014

If you're in the UK, Relate might well be worth checking out (I'm not sure if their livechat works overseas).
posted by greenish at 8:19 AM on October 29, 2014

From a legal perspective, most licensed therapists are going to require some sort of signed consent form to establish a working relationship with you, and most should want information about your name and location in case you do become suicidal or have some other emergency.

There are certainly anonymous "venting" places online (as linked above) that may be helpful, but that's a bit different from an ongoing therapeutic relationship.

I love the idea of journaling or free-writing and bringing those writings into your therapist. Some therapists will also let clients call and leave voicemails just venting.

Another thought is to challenge yourself to bring up your dilemma with your therapist. You don't need to talk about the stuff you're ashamed of yet, just talk about what it's like to worry about how the therapist will react if he learns those things.
posted by jaguar at 8:21 AM on October 29, 2014 [7 favorites]

One thing to keep in mind is that the feelings, attitudes or behaviors you are uncomfortable with are not the totality of who you are. They represent parts of you. And you are comprised of many, many, parts. A human being is a complex system of different attitudes, beliefs, vulnerabilities, and self protections. There is also wisdom and decency inside that is the core of our humanity.

Every one of us can be petty, for instance. But we also have parts that are noble. No person is all one thing. So in your case there is a part of you that wants you to live to the highest standards. You made reference to it, obliquely, when you said that it is embarrassed when you don't meet your highest ideals.

To take it a little further, once we begin exploring our different parts and their intentions we discover that even those aspects we are not proud of sincerely want the best for us, even if the way they express that intention may not be helpful. For instance, the parts of ourselves that manifest extreme behavior may actually be doing their best to keep us safe in the best way they know how. (To understand this, remember that the foundations of our behavior and beliefs mostly developed in childhood.) When we get curious and begin to listen, we appreciate where they are coming from. The more we listen and explore, the more we see how beautiful we actually are. Really. I understand this might sound hard to believe but I am a therapist and witness the phenomena constantly.

There's way more than I can put into this space, but if you find this touching or intriguing, memail me and I will direct you towards some lovely books and resources.
posted by elf27 at 10:01 AM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'll second the idea of writing out things and then having your therapist read them while you're sitting there. I always found that to be a very good way of addressing things that you find uncomfortable to say aloud; it's easier, somehow, if you don't have to hear the words as you're speaking them.

(I'll also say that eventually, I found it a lot easier to tell my therapist uncomfortable things without that middle step, although sometimes I had to use little tricks to get myself to speak, such as counting backwards from ten and deciding that I'll speak when I get to "one" and so on. Sounds strange, but it worked for me.)

Just one woman's view: I find the idea of having an anonymous therapist a bit odd. To me, a dynamic therapeutic dyad is a part of the process, and not an incidental part; I don't see how you get that with a relationship that's more or less anonymous. Just sort of typing into the void is basically venting, which isn't really the same thing as therapy, especially when it's allowing you to more or less evade something that seems like it's actually part of what you want to be addressing.
posted by holborne at 10:29 AM on October 29, 2014

I'll nth the suggestion of writing these things down (in one go, unedited) and then bringing them into the session. Also, have you spoken to your therapist about this general inability to be candid? Maybe it will help if you can deconstruct this general issue before you dive into specific things that make you feel embarrassed/uncomfortable/etc.

With that being said, maybe sharing this anonymously online (with a support group or some sort of counseling service) might prove useful as an intermediate step until you reach a point where you're comfortably being open with your therapist about these things.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:49 AM on October 29, 2014

Look into Art Therapy. This is therapy for people who can't express themselves verbally for whatever reason. (Embarassment, expressive language problems, etc.) It's not just for kids.

I know someone who did therapy in this way and it was very helpful. They use a variety of art to help you express yourself.
posted by Coffeetyme at 1:39 PM on October 29, 2014

Wow, this is super timely because I literally JUST came across this site yesterday: Life Support Club. I can't speak to it personally but I'm tempted to try it out. While I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of a faceless therapist, the idea of writing out my problems and feelings instead of trying to put them into words is extremely appealing. Maybe saying them out loud is more spontaneous, more revealing, and more raw, but I often leave a session feeling like I didn't get my point across in a way I'm better able to in writing.
posted by anderjen at 11:22 AM on October 30, 2014

Completely agreeing above with the idea of writing these things down and handing them over. I understand that this still requires disclosure, but it's at a remove, which may help. (I'm in therapy too, this isn't some "oh jeez just do it already.")

Have you discussed this with your therapist? Without getting into the details that make you uncomfortable, it should be possible to tease apart the general issue and establish a deeper level of comfort and trust that will help you be able to articulate what you are feeling. "Hey, Therapist. I am having difficulty trusting you because I am uncomfortable/_______ disclosing certain details."

That said, if you do find an online therapist to help, I suggest (I'm guessing you are already aiming this way but just in case) that you confine your work to the specific issue of being able to be candid with your in-person therapist. Set a goal and work hard towards it, because (as I'm sure you know) your therapist can only be as useful as the fullness of the picture you are presenting to them.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:43 PM on October 30, 2014

I volunteer with TrevorChat ( as a counselor; technically the service's audience is LGBTQ young people (ages 13-24) but sometimes chatters don't identify as LGBTQ. If you are over 24, you might consider just saying you are 24 to the counselor; some counselors would probably chat with you even if you are outside of the range, some might try to provide a referral somewhere else. But it is a valuable resource for anonymous chatting. Note that I am not a therapist and the volunteers are not required to be licensed therapists, so it is not therapy that is being provided in the strict sense of the term.
posted by holympus at 3:37 PM on November 1, 2014

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