Is Online Counseling Right For You?

Online counseling is not new. Other terms for online counseling include etherapy, online therapy, cybertherapy, and internet counseling. It’s been almost 10 years since I first offered counseling online. Professionals were concerned that online counselors were trying to replace traditional face-to-face psychotherapy. Now many psychotherapists offer counseling online or at least use technology to improve relationships with existing clients.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to get advice without the hassle of scheduling or the daily commute? Many people are finding that participating in online counseling is easier, more convenient, and more cost-effective. The idea of ​​logging on from home or almost anywhere with the convenience of wireless Internet and a laptop is quite appealing.

So how does online counseling take place? Email, chat, and webcam are the most common delivery methods. Some therapists offer counseling in virtual worlds like Second Life. But mostly, online advice is text-based, which means the usual hear and see cues aren’t available. Some describe email therapy as an exchange of letters. Chat therapy is conversational in style and is most easily compared to the traditional psychotherapy process. With technological advances, webcams offer sharper images than a few years ago. Webcams reintroduce audio and visual components into the process. Any of these delivery methods can be used individually or together.

If you’re interested in online counseling, be sure to choose a therapist who understands the importance of confidentiality and offers an alternative to traditional chat and email. Ideally, your communication should be secure and encrypted and there are a variety of free encryption options available that are very easy to use. Many therapists who practice online have additional education which ideally indicates a certain level of competence. Therapists who have received additional training will usually list the training on their website. Therapists may choose to become certified as a Distance Certified Counselor (DCC). This designation suggests a basic level of experience and certification is offered through the Center for Credentialing Education and the National Board of Certified Counselors. Also, you should be able to verify a therapist’s other credentials. At the very least, expect your therapist to be able to practice independently. In the United States, this is usually indicated by a state license.

Organizations that support professionalism in the field of online counseling include the International Society for Online Mental Health (ISMHO) ismho.org and the American Distance Counseling Association (ADCA) [http://www.adca-online].

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