E-therapy (the delivery of mental health services online) is a rapidly growing service. E-therapy is normally conducted in the form of email communications, discussion lists, live chat rooms, or live audio or audiovisual conferencing. It is a controversial practice, but one that more and more therapists and clients taking part in.
The focus of e-therapy is generally on resolving issues in interpersonal relationships, stress reduction, and working through the dilemmas of daily life. It is not as intensive as traditional psychotherapy, and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of severe psychiatric disorders. E-therapy should not be used as a replacement for face-to-face counseling, but it offers hope to those people unable or unwilling to take part in traditional psychotherapy. There are many benefits to e-therapy, and some of those are listed below:
Some advantages of e-therapy:
1) E-therapy makes it possible for clients to access services at any time, any day of the week. Although it often takes time for the therapist to get back to the client, there is no longer a need to wait for a scheduled appointment to “get something off your chest” or to share something before it is forgotten.
2) E-therapy can provide clients in remote areas services that would not normally be available, and is available to clients who are physically unable to leave their homes.
3) Internet therapy can provide added confidentiality for clients worried about being seen going into their therapist’s office, and in some cases can increase honesty on the part of the client as there is less concern about running into their therapist on the street.
4) Geography is not an issue when it comes to e-therapy, giving clients access to highly specialized practitioners all around the country.
5) Many clients may be more forthcoming and willing to share more details of their problems more quickly when communication is conducted over the internet, rather than in a face-to-face structured setting.
6) E-therapy can be done from the comfort of home, with no need for babysitters and with no missed time from work.
Some disadvantages of e-therapy:
1) The potential for miscommunication is greater online due to lack of access to the client’s nonverbal behavior, and this may make it difficult to correctly assess and diagnose many disorders.
2) Little research exists at this time on the effectiveness of e-therapy, and it may turn out to have little benefit for clients in the long run.
3) It is difficult for the e-therapist to determine the severity of symptoms online, and this form of therapy might not be useful (and may even be harmful) for the psychotic client.
4) Clients may misrepresent themselves, creating barriers to effective therapy.
5) Ability to intervene in the event of a crisis may be limited or impossible.
If you are considering e-therapy, please research and check the credentials of any therapist you are communicating with. Metanoia is a great resource to use when looking for an online therapist. Be certain to check out their ABC’s of Internet Therapy.