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Concerns with Online Counseling

With the growing internet community, several counselors have decided to take advantage of this opportunity to deliver services online. Many people affirm that online therapy is unethical, while others suggest online counseling only differs because the settings of the counseling session is online. It is not being addressed thoroughly, but is being practiced. A lot of mental health professionals are asking the questions is online counseling ethical and how can one ensure that clients are gaining improvements throughout the sessions. Will online counseling be as effective as face to face counseling?

Therapist training concerns: Most counseling programs do not even address the possibility of becoming an online therapist, so with little to none training – can it still be ethical? Online therapists need to be aware of problems that they may have during the counseling session. The therapist needs to guarantee that the client is computer literate. Online therapists should adequately understand word processing and troubleshooting concerns as well as assisting their clients with the same problems. Having access to technological support can help the therapist in an emergency, but he or she should be aware of the confidentiality that can be broken if outside help is used. Confidentiality is not guaranteed when using online resources for counseling. There are firewalls and software that can help minimize problems with confidentiality. The therapist wants to be careful of the speech that he/she uses. A few shortcomings of online counseling are that clients remain unseen; therefore, if the client is intoxicated, you will not be able to smell the alcohol.

Therapeutic relationship: Some researchers have questioned whether or not the therapeutic relationship can be established throughout the online process. According to the article “Suggestions for the Ethical Practice of Online Psychotherapy,” researchers ponder whether or not counselors can show empathy, warmth, and congruence with the clientele. There is extreme caution that needs to be raised if the client is in a domestic violence situation; it could be deadly if the partner retrieves this electronic information. The therapist and client should also have a coded subject line, so other members of the client’s family will not read the personal entries. It is also good to be aware of the online lingo. Many are used to typing in abbreviations, so it is good to be familiar with them to make it easier on the client. Also be aware that the client may send an e-mail, but that through technology timing it may be retrieved late. Online therapists should have the awareness of whether or not the client has internet addiction. Some research suggests that is why certain clientele seek out online therapy.

Client Comfortability: Comfortability from the counselors and the client’s perspective can affect the ease and flow of online counseling. According to the article “Suggestions for the Ethical Practice of Online Psychotherapy,” reasons for people to opt for online counseling is that expansive communication permits people who live in rural areas, people with disabilities, people who are older, and people with social phobia to have admittance to therapy from the privacy and convenience of their own home or surroundings. Specific individuals would like to use online counseling so that they can be comfortable in their own surroundings. On the other hand, some counselors are not trained to do online counseling and may lack their own comfortability within themselves.

In conclusion, online counseling has several things that have to be addressed before practicing. Some things have to be in place before deciding to become an online therapist. For example, a screening requirement must be completed in order to weed out certain clientele. It is critical that the client’s information is identified during the session in case the client expresses suicidal ideation. Some researchers suggest that online therapy should only be performed in conjunction with face-to-face counseling. According to the article “Suggestions for the Ethical Practice of Online Psychotherapy,” most researchers agree that there should at least be an initial meeting, but this brings up a problem if the client is out of the counselor’s state. There tends to be a relative agreement that individuals with severe disorders such as psychotic or bipolar disorders, and suicidal or homicidal clients need to be screened out. It is suggested that the therapist use their best judgment in determining if the clients are appropriate for online therapy. There can also be lots of miscommunication between the therapist and counselor as well, so it may be difficult when developing the therapeutic relationship. Overall, numerous individuals and counseling organizations have dodged conversing about online counseling and lay the responsibility to the online therapist to follow his/her own ethical guidelines and state regulations.