December 16, 2014
Pros and Cons of Online Therapy
According to (Finn & Holden, 2000), “Human services agencies have begun to use the Internet as a tool for promoting agency visibility, providing community education, offering information and referral services, providing online counseling, obtaining community feedback, and engaging in advocacy activities.” In the past 10 to 15 years many changes have taken place and have impacted how services are being delivered. Already numerous studies suggest that internet counselling, when combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, can be used effectively on a variety of clinical issues (Haberstroth, Duffy, Evans, & Trepal, 2007). Some opinions have been formed regarding the ethical and security of online therapy sessions.
Web counselling is available to anyone having a computer as long as they are capable of using the specific website. Online therapy does overcome barriers that may inhibit people from seeking therapy. For example, individuals who live in outlying areas where services are not provided can benefit from online counselling. Those that are physically disabled or unable to leave their home can also access these services. Web counselling can benefit most children and teenagers who need therapy as they seem to be more comfortable with using the internet (Shaw & Shaw, 2006). Online therapy is convenient for both therapists and the clients, it gives them the option of corresponding during various times. This style of therapy can remove the barriers of setting appointments as in traditional settings. This enables the therapist to extend their services to more clients and extend a schedule over 24 hours to reach a larger geographical area.
For some individuals the thought of sitting with a therapist is uncomfortable so they would opt to find online counselling whereby being in a more comfortable setting. Some people suffer from social phobias, agoraphobias or anxiety disorders (Gedge, 2009).
Web Counselling works both ways when it comes to saving on therapy expenses. The therapists can lower the fees they would normally charge, since they would no longer need counselling offices. Clients would then be able to redirect that money toward other health expenses. Online counselling may also eliminate social stigma associated with receiving therapy. For clients that are uncomfortable receiving therapy, online counselling allows them to receive services privately without having to visit a counselling center. Counselling becomes less intimidating when done in the comfort of their own home through the computer.
When participating in online counselling, there are no verbal and nonverbal cues. Some of the challenges that occur are; maintaining confidentiality, security, effectiveness, technology, and a way to guarantee the therapists credibility. Developing a program that interacts with the client would help to gauge what the client is feeling and for identifying the discrepancies between verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Traditional counselling relies heavily on the characteristics of both verbal and nonverbal cues as a form of communication and as a way of gaining insight into the thoughts, feelings and behaviors around the clients presenting concerns. “Online therapy does not give an indication of characteristics such as voice tone, facial expression, body language and eye contact, this can potentially impact negatively on the counselling outcomes as the therapist has no opportunity to observe and interpret such cues” (Pelling, 2009).
Mental health practitioners have an ethical responsibility to protect the confidential records of their clients. With online therapy security measures need to be in place to protect the client’s records.