Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Online Counseling, Can This Work?

Does online counseling work?
Can it help me with my problems?
How does it work?
Do you talk on the phone or text or email?
How can things be confidential and private?

Online counseling of one form or another (email, chat and phone) has been around for over 10 years now. It began with therapists connecting with clients through technology instead of, or in addition to, regular face-to-face sessions. As the use of the computer and the ease of telephones and instant messaging has increased, so has the interest in receiving help with personal problems over the internet.

More and more people are using the internet to search out answers to questions. Some questions are not ones that articles, books or message boards can answer effectively. Some need the individual help and support that only a trained professional can offer.

Online counseling has been shown to be effective with a large number of problems. While not many studies have been done in this area, reports and testimonials from some consumers indicate that online counseling can be as helpful as in-person therapy for many problems.

One study did show that it was as effective in treating depression as in-person therapy when clients received regular sessions, completed homework and workbook assignments and took part in online forums. Research continues on this delivery system for counseling and we will update this guide as we receive more information.

In-person, live therapy, is still the preferred choice for most therapists and clients; however, in today’s world, sometimes online counseling is the only choice.

Before deciding if online counseling might fit for you, you should ask yourself a few questions. A couple of them are:

Do I want a relationship with a therapist?

A relationship with an online therapist, even if it is with the phone and with a video camera, does not have the same personal qualities as sitting in a room together. You will not feel the same care, concern and warmth over email or on the phone as you would in person. While you can get a good “feel” for your therapist, especially if it is over the phone, most likely there will not be the same connection as sitting in a room together.

How can I decide if this person is qualified to help me?
Some people find a good therapist by checking with friends or their doctor. You cannot do that so easily over the telephone. Be sure to check his or her credentials and affiliation with organizations. For instance, if you are looking for someone who can help you with a relationship, you might want to see if that person is licensed as marriage and family therapist and a member of The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Read some of the articles or book reviews that this therapist has written on his or her website and ask for an opportunity to talk briefly to see if there might be a “fit”.