What is online counseling?
We are an increasingly technological driven society. At any given moment, most of us are no more than a quick reach away from some a smart phone, tablet or laptop device.
This has not only changed the way we communicate with each other informally, but has impacted the health profession as well.
Online counseling refers to counseling services provided via the internet and includes, for example, emails, direct messaging, web cameras.
This type of counselling goes by many names, such as cyberspace counselling, e-therapy, e-counselling and tele-counselling. According to The Federal Health Resources and Services Administration define tele-health as, “The use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.”
Online counseling is increasingly being offered as an option by mental health professionals.
How does online counseling differ from traditional counseling?
The largest difference between online counseling and traditional counseling is the mode of communication. In traditional counseling, the counselor typically meets with the client face to face in the same location for sessions. In online counseling sessions the counselor and client utilize telecommunication technology to communicate.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal conducted a systematic review of the literature published between 2000 and 2012 and identified 1104 articles reporting Internet-delivered or computerized treatments for common psychiatric disorders. They found that online delivered cognitive behavioral therapy combined with clinical care has been shown to benefit people with depression, anxiety and emotional distress. Two of the major benefits of online therapy compared to in-person psychotherapy are convenience and access for clients.
Convenience. In our busy lives it can be difficult to find the time for self-care. Online therapy can afford clients the ability to engage in a counseling session during the regular work day, without having to leave their office or take additional time for the traffic and commute.
For prospective clients who may be uncomfortable with more traditional models of therapy, they may find online counseling as a better fit for their needs. For example clients who have social phobias, agoraphobia, or anxiety disorders may especially benefit from the option to utilize technology to communicate with their counselors.
Access. Depending on your location you may not have many counselors readily available for sessions. In some rural communities or remote areas, the nearest counselor’s office may be an hour drive away. Some clients are unable to drive or do not have access to reliable transportation to get to an appointment. Clients with chronic illnesses or disabilities may not be able to easily leave their home. In these situations, Web- or telephone-based therapy may be their only option for help.
Recommendations for Online Counseling
The Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & Marriage and Therapy board provides these recommendations below for clients’ consideration when choosing a counselor for online therapy.
Verify that the practitioner has a current and valid license in the State of Ohio.
A person who provides services using the Internet shall have a web site, which must include information relative to the license the licensee holds, his or her physical location, his or her contact information, contact information for the licensing Board(s) and display of licensure.
Understand the fee that you will pay for the services rendered.
Fully comprehend how and to whom the fee is paid.
Be satisfied with the methods used to ensure the confidentiality of communication with and by the provider.
Make yourself aware of the risks and benefits of receiving the services so you can make an informed choice about the services provided.
If you are considering online counseling, make sure the counselor you plan to work with is licensed to provide counseling services within their state.
Additionally, make sure you are comfortable with the modes of communication being utilized for online counseling. Confidentiality is an important element of developing a healthy therapeutic relationship, it’s important that your counselor is taking sufficient steps to ensure your identity and health information is being appropriately protected.
Overall, online counseling provides benefits for individuals who are comfortable utilizing technology to communicate and value the convenience offered by this service.
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