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Thursday, 19 December 2013

E - Counseling

Online: The New Trend in Psychological Counseling

E - Counseling
The computer, the internet and the telephone – since the emergence of technology assisted media such as these, there has been a considerable shift in the way psychologists and mental health professionals provide psychological services to clients and patients. Tele-psychology, cyber-psychology or tele-health; they are all alternate terms to what can also be called e-health, e-counseling, web or online counseling or telephonic counseling.

The mental health industry offers a wide range of services and recently has begun offering web based services to clients. Online counseling has become a fast growing subset of psychological therapy which allows clients to communicate with professionals through live chat, email or the phone. Online counseling provides direct access to therapy and is also convenient, affordable, effective and not time bound. Virtual psychological consultation is an alternative for those who either cannot afford private counseling or those who are afraid to talk to face to face to a psychologist. It may have its own risks for the psychologists who cannot verify the client’s background and cannot observe the much needed nonverbal communication in interviewing and counseling process.

This form of counseling is a new way to make contact between a client and a mental health professional. Its advantage is that it is direct and gains time but the expectations of a client about help and competency may still be prevalent. There has been a recent increase in the number of clients who prefer therapy sessions in the comfort of their homes rather than driving to a therapist’s office. Online sessions using technologies such as Skype and other videocam formats are seen to be less intimidating and makes the client feel more relaxed and in charge. This is a good thing because the goal of therapy is to give the client the tool to better manage emotional suffering and lead a healthier life.

There may be various concerns with regard to online counseling and the credibility of such sessions. Some of the things one should make sure are that the therapist offers free email consultation in order to have the opportunity to describe the emotional issues one is struggling with and feel satisfied with the responses. One can then be convinced to continue with the therapist to pay and obtain services. One can also determine the credibility and approach of the therapist by researching about their published articles or books. It is good if you pay after the session which shows that one only pays when satisfied with the session. One should ensure that the payment is through a secure site such as PayPal.

There are various pros of online counseling. Access issues is one such thing where it internet services facilitate counseling for those who have access to technology and who have difficulty accessing when traveling or people from remote areas or children. One can have the benefit of accessing and conducting sessions at unusual hours and not just office hours. This may be barrier to some who are illiterates or have trouble with written fluency, people from non-English background and those with less knowledge of technology. Client privacy and disclosure can be maintained as people need not fear about gender bias and discrimination as information is secure which enables one to facilitate, enhance and hasten the process of counseling. Ongoing client support is provided by communication for appointment changes, follow-up services, information access or even relapse services.

Some disadvantages of this tool of counseling is that there is a clear lack of access to verbal and nonverbal cues which limits the therapist’s ability to observe clients and affect output. Body postures like clenched fists, tearful expressions or hushed and raised tones are absent in the electronic form. Some forms of therapy like play therapy, sand tray therapy and other forms of interactions and expressions cannot be translated and thus electronic forms of therapy are considered inappropriate for clinical populations and for persons with severe mental disorders.Apart from these limits to intervention, there may also be effects on general efficacy and security problems.

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