Online Counseling: Hype or Hope?
Author: Christy Cuellar-Wentz
Online therapy, email therapy, virtual therapy, cyber-counseling, e-therapy: they all refer to therapy or counseling using the internet, most often by email. Online counseling is a powerful tool for helping people to gain insight and resolve the problems that interfere with the quality of their lives. Therapists typically use email exchanges in online counseling work, and may supplement them with phone sessions (if necessary or requested) at appropriate points in the process.
Online counseling has a liberating effect. People feel safer, and can write about their thoughts, feelings and issues freely. This often allows them to get to the root of problems more quickly than in traditional face-to-face therapy.
The exchange of emails gives clients time to reflect on what they\'ve written, and what the therapist has said in reply. This inherent time delay can be of great benefit in working through thoughts, feelings, decisions and beliefs.
The convenience of virtual therapy is no match for traditional face-to-face therapy. It is the first therapy that actually encourages clients to send messages to their counselors at any time of the day or night while writing as much or as little as they wish.
Virtual therapy eliminates the need for traveling to a traditional office. Parents needn\'t struggle with day care. People with physical or emotional conditions that make travel challenging can receive help in the comfort of their homes, and excellent therapists can be found online even if there aren\'t any qualified counselors near the client\'s home.
Unlike traditional therapy, online counseling provides a useful record of the counseling sessions. The e-mail exchanges allow the client and therapist to look back on their work together and evaluate it.
Virtual counseling costs less than seeing a therapist or coach face-to-face. Clients are only charged for the time a counselor actually spends reading their emails, composing replies, or speaking with them on the phone. All transportation costs are also eliminated.
In online therapy or phone sessions, therapists cannot watch facial expressions and other behaviors to better understand what a client is feeling. It is possible to have misunderstandings. Because of this, online counseling is NOT easy for the therapist, despite the fact that it costs the client far less than traditional therapy.
Clients need to be able to put their thoughts and feelings into writing, and write about themselves in a fairly articulate way.
Online work is inappropriate for some clients, including people who are currently in crisis or feel suicidal, people with serious emotional problems; people under the age of 18.
Unlike traditional psychotherapy, online counseling cannot provide formal diagnosis and treatment.
Cyber-counseling is relatively new, and naturally experimental.
Online counseling should not be embraced because of its pioneering nature any more than it should be avoided because it strays from the traditional path. Today\'s technological leaps can empower people with access to therapy that is cost-effective, convenient and competent. It is well worth exploring to discover if this therapy may be a good choice for you or someone you love.
Christy Cuellar-Wentz, M.A. is a radio host and an emotional health therapist passionate about providing support for the profound transition to new parenthood. She offers free weekly MP3 downloads filled with empowering ideas for new mothers as well as up-to-date information on postnatal depression, postpartum stress and baby blues.