Have you wondered about the different counseling therapy techniques that exist? Mental disorders, ranging from depression to bipolar disorder and from anxiety to obsessive compulsive disorder have an effect on millions of Americans. Research shows that 57.7million Americans ages 18 and above have a mental disorder.1 Exciting new advances in online counseling make it easier than ever for many people to now receive quality counseling via the internet in their own home.
Online Counseling: A Definition
Online counseling is defined as professional therapy between a patient and a professional mental health practitioner that makes use of the internet. The terms used in defining online counseling are new and somewhat flexible. For example, a therapist may see clients in their office and online or see clients only online.
There are several different types of counseling and therapy provided online:2
- E-therapy: Communication normally between client and provider occurs through e-mail with internet based treatment programs. Limited to specific disorders
- E-Counseling: Communication in real time between therapist and client. (Chat communication). Not as structured as E-therapy.
- Mental Health Information Websites: Provides information and self-help suggestions in addition to resources in the field of mental health. Mental health information sites do not offer treatment.
- Self-guided treatment: Internet based treatment without guidance from practitioner. Individual follows guidelines on the site.
- Online Support Group: Allows people with similar mental health issues to come together and communicate in real time or delayed time. Forums and chat rooms are used for support groups. A therapist may or may not guide the group.
- Online mental health screenings and assessments: Clients fill out questionnaires and acquire indication of psychological health status.
The Beginning of Distance Therapy as a Successful Counseling Therapy Technique:
Internet counseling is growing by leaps and bounds. But, the public was already stepping away from face-to-face technology before internet counseling became popular. For approximately thirty years counselors have worked with clients over the phone. Phone counseling is now considered a common tool for therapy. It is useful for scheduling appointments, consultations, making payments, managing a crisis event or emergency, and other tasks related to psychotherapy. A study of 600 practicing psychologists found that 98 percent provided services using a phone.3 Therapists continue to use the telephone for therapy to great success.
Why Internet Therapy Works: The Benefits
Online counseling or cybercounseling is working for many people. What may seem odd – being separated from your therapist and not being face to face – can actually have advantages. Convenience is one of the biggest benefits for most people who seek online therapy. When working with an online counselor it is more convenient for the client and the provider.
Online counseling offers services to people who may not have had the opportunity to see a therapist under other circumstances. Limited mobility, time constraints, and no access to mental health services keeps hundreds of people from getting the services they need every year. Online counseling solves that problem by placing the therapy sessions in the client’s home at a convenient time.
Experts propose that clients seeing therapists on the internet are less inhibited than those seeking traditional treatment.4 There are ‘few, if any, social masks to remove, and clients tend to cut to the chase of core issues.”5
Online therapy, especially e-mail based therapy, leaves a record. Cleints can keep a record of their therapy and re-read it whenever they need to recharge or look over a particluar segment of their therapy.
When a person commits to online therapy, he or she establishes a ‘zone of reflection’.6 E-mail therapy or any online therapy that involves writing allows the client to reflect through their writing. Writing is very theraputic and can be a benefit of online therapy by itself.
Online therapy gives an extra level of privacy to the client. Many people attach a stigma to seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist in a traditional settting. Some people may be in a relationship where the other party does not want them to attend counseling and e-therapy offers them a way to obtain help without leving home.
Overcoming Challenges to Counseling Therapy Techniques
As with all types of counseling therapy techniques, there are challenges with internet counseling. First, it must be noted that internet counseling is not for everyone. Online assesments are normally conducted to screen out persons who need traditonal treatment. This usualy involves issues of violence or immediate crisis.
The client must feel comfortable and understand the technology involved in internet counsleing. He or she must be able to write and express their feelings and thoughts to a reasonable degree.7 The proces will not work for client’s who are not open for prolonged introspection.
How online counseling and therapy work is quickly becoming popular in our society as successful counseling therapy techniques. Thirty years ago the telephone began to slowly make a place for itself in the world of face-to –face counseling. Today, distance counseling is going one step further with online counseling via Skype, chat rooms, email and other online venues. Online counseling is opening the doors for many people who have never had the oppurtunity to receive counseling. Plus, it is making it much more convenient for the average American to receive counseling in their home.
1 The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health: http://wwwapps.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america.shtml
2 Best Practices in Online Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from Journal of Technology in Human Services: http://v1.gpce.showsite.rxnova.com/RXAU/RXAU_GPCE/documents/melbourne/alm-f/predispreading-almf-s4b-anxiety.pdf
3 Michael Mallen, A. R. (n.d.). Online Counseling. Retrieved from http://aaronrochlen.edb.utexas.edu/download/PDFs/2005-OnlineCounselingLitReview.pdf
4 Aaron Rochlen, J. Z. (n.d.). Online Therapy: Review of Relevant Definitions, Debates, and current Empirical Support. Retrieved from http://in3.uoc.edu/opencms/export/sites/in3/webs/grups_de_recerca/psinet/_resources/documents/Rochlen.pdf