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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 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.

Frankly, all those aforementioned deep-seated issues are still very much alive and kicking, therapy be damned.So when I heard about free "Internet therapy" websites, I was curious.I keep getting sucked into sketchy, go-nowhere maybe-relationships. "Again, I wait for the helpful and compassionate responses to roll in. By entering the chat, you understand that Blah Therapy is not liable for any advice given."The first time I try to vent, to a "listener" called "Large-Capacity Mountain," I find it awkward—I can't tell if he/she/it is waiting for me to start, or if I should wait for an introduction, or what.After I post a brief monologue about feeling isolated, I can see that my new buddy is typing a response, but then my Internet connection drops off before I can catch a reply.The site also includes free therapist-run forums where users can air their mental-health challenges; a therapist will respond to up to 5 posts per user before charging a fee.

MY ISSUE: I decide to hit up Talktala's free forums.

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.

This time, I bemoan how frustrating it can feel being 37 and single. ) later, a fellow MTC newbie takes pity and responds to my plea, but her reply is—well, let's just say it's less than satisfying: "If time will come that u feel u've been left behind just think that somebody will be around to be by your side if not a lover maybe a friend that truly lives you" [sic]. 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."ISSUE I'M ADDRESSING: I'm eager to try the anonymous venting thing, because spilling my secrets to some rando who gets off on "listening" sounds, admittedly, awesome.

"I can't seem to catch a break when it comes to dating and love," I write. but it doesn't pan out—[the guys I like either] aren't into me or they are ambivalent ... Before jumping in, I must confront a slightly scary disclaimer: "Venting to a stranger can be incredibly dangerous if you are at a very mentally sensitive state.

Confession time: I've been in talk therapy for more than 20 years (I started when I was 15—today I'm 37).