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    "The dialogue that occurs online is much more shallow and transient.It's like comparing an artificial sweetener to honey, or instant coffee to slow-brewed." I suspected as much, but I wanted to see for myself.1.Could spilling my guts to faceless strangers on an online message board or chat room possibly compare to "real" therapy? Paul Hokemeyer, a NYC-based addictions and family therapist, is dubious."Therapy that changes people's lives is a nuanced process," he says.I keep getting sucked into sketchy, go-nowhere maybe-relationships. "Again, I wait for the helpful and compassionate responses to roll in. It's pretty unique in its approach—in addition to offering the "completely anonymous" services of a real therapist for ("No therapist will know who you are—no one close to you will know you're getting therapy"), the site has a "venting/listening" private chat function that pairs up anonymous strangers who want to vent with strangers who want to listen. Because, as the site explains, "sharing and connecting with other strangers who are going through a struggles just like you [sic] provides great consolation to anyone in need of healing or a friend."I'm eager to try the anonymous venting thing, because spilling my secrets to some rando who gets off on "listening" sounds, admittedly, awesome.

    Therapy has become a customary part of my self-care song-and-dance, despite the sad truth that I haven't seen tons of progress when it comes to my struggles with depression, relationships, et al.My Therapy Couch rather charmingly calls itself a " social counseling site." So ...it's like Facebook had a baby with a virtual shrink's office! Like Talktala, MTC features free forums where users can vent about their issues, but if you want real therapeutic guidance (aka "Direct Counseling") from a professional, you'll need to cough up some cash.Still, as our back-and-forth winds down, I feel totally underwhelmed. Hokemeyer suggested, my Talktala experience feels like Self-Reflection Lite—it's not in-depth enough to provide any real insight.Not for me, anyway—a therapy newbie might find Regina's advice illuminating.I also write, "I just moved 3,000 miles across the country, back to my hometown, in the dead of winter on the East Coast. I've had depression since I was 16 (I'm in my late 30s now) and seem to forget that it doesn't just magically go away [following a relocation]."THE RESOLUTION (OR LACK THEREOF)An hour goes by. So I jump onto another board (one that an actual therapist is supposed to frequent!) and try posting in the "Relationships & Family" section instead.I return a few days later, and finally I have a successful chat session with a member named "Special-Reward." I discover, after blabbing—again—about feeling isolated post-move, that my new friend is female, and all of 19. When I express frustration about not having tons of friends in my hometown, she commiserates, "I'm really shy too.She says she's been frequenting the site for about a week because participating in the chats, as both a listener and a venter, helps her. But I think if you just push yourself a little bit to find people with similar interests, it will be beneficial." She also suggests a couple sites where I might find likeminded people (and not4dating).THE RESOLUTION (OR LACK THEREOF)OK, so the therapist's response seems a bit... I wasn't expecting much more, honestly, so I continue my exchange, explaining more details about my mental-health history.It's weirdly gratifying each time I get an email notification alerting me to Regina's replies, and there is something freeing about anonymously spilling my guts with no sense of concern about how I "look" to the other person.THE THERAPY SITE: is the slickest of the three sites I tried.It has the most appealing design, and it helpfully provides sympathetic-looking photos of its roster of online therapists waiting, with bated breath, to help me. For "everyone [to] have real-time, simple, and affordable access to professional advice whenever and wherever we need it."Talktala offers paid online support from legit online therapists—it costs for an "initial help" session; for a one-on-one "chat for a week" service in which you get to, yes, e-chat with a therapist one-on-one for a week; and for a 30-minute one-on-one video session with a therapist of your choosing.Lasting change requires a human connection that cannot be replaced by a keypad and a computer screen."I guess it's back to the couch for me.

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