Increasingly, counseling is being offered through the internet and over the telephonic and some people prefer these method of communication to face –to- face contact.
Demand for what is sometimes referred to as “cyber-therapy” or “e-therapy” is growing and subsequently the number of counselors working online offering counseling through e-mail or chat rooms is also increasing.
Counseling over the telephonic is another alternative to face –to- face counseling. The counselor working over the telephone may be part of an organization or practicing privately.
When offering counseling over the internet, it’s crucial to confidentiality that optimum protection is set up through technological tools like anti-virus and spam blocking software, firewalls and anti –tracking devices of minimize the risk of interference and interception of communication. The therapist and clients can discuss what will happen to their correspondence and agree to a timescale for the deletion of notes. Some therapist question the safety of keeping notes on the hard drive and prefer to keep paper notes only. Others will keep notes for a certain period of time before destroying them.
The counselor will set out fees and payment method in the contract. The payments are usually made by cheque or by credit card online or a secure internet payment method. Payment might be made monthly or in advance or at the onset of counseling. Chat sessions can be schedule as half hour or hourly sessions.
Supervision is an important support in counseling work and supervision will be required for online practice. When working online supervision can take place either face-to-face or online; the supervisor will need to have experience and training relevant to this type of work to understand the issues and ethical concerns particular to it. Online supervision is a relatively new method of support and guidance and new guidelines are emerging. Counselor need to assure that the supervision is adequate to support their online work. Supervisors ideally have expertise in the particular area and therefore are able to advise on issues like confidentiality, storage of notes and data protection.
Benefits of Tele-Counseling / Online Counseling
- Economical – Travelling cost is saved.
- Accessible to those with disabilities and to those who live in rural or remote areas.
- Clients can choose to remain anonymous.
- They feel safer and less exposed.
- Suits people who have problems expressing their emotions.
- Convenient – can be accessed from own home, collage, library or any location.
- Both the provider and user can keep messages to refer back to.
- Client can fit internet work/or other jobs with the session.
- It prevents dropping up from the therapies in between.
- It can be combined with face- to –face sessions.
Drawbacks of Tele-Counseling / Online Counseling
- There is no visible body language or facial expression to read.
- There’s a lack of non-verbal cues, which can convey warmth or concern.
- Internet work is less intimate than face-to-face work.
- It can be harder to detect mental health problems.
- Works better with some therapeutic models than others.
- The counselor only has the information that the client decides to give.
- There may be problems with communication in what meaning is given to words. Every now and then it could be important for the counselor to check that they are interpreting the client’s particular meaning.