How Safe and Secure is Chat Therapy?

Therapy encryption

You’re vulnerable when you reach out to a therapist. Confiding your sorrows and other problems to a stranger is a scary tangle of trust issues and self- plus public respect. In today’s digital age of piracy and hacking nightmares, though, your concern for confidentiality is further endangered by morally bankrupt hackers who expose defenseless people to public disclosure. Bank account numbers, health issues and mental/emotional problems can become the stuff of painful abuse when it is put into the public domain. Data is for sale and the cavalier manipulation of psyches is a tempting goal for abusive strangers let alone acquaintances. Identify theft is another problem and so is the matter of private disclosure. Skype’s potential for abuse at the Good Therapy site explains part of the problem. The predicament is not a risk that can be taken lightly. The issue is so important to the confidentiality between therapists and clients that online therapy sites are taking steps to preserve patient privacy.

The Counseling Resource site is one such example of client privacy protection. Its “Site Privacy Policy” and “Security Details” pages assure present and future people counseled there that their innermost thoughts are protected from trespassers. The Online Therapy Institute is another example of patient protection. The home page explains the encryption safeguard used to protect the privacy of people who seek the counseling service. The Online Therapy with Dr Masha site Getting Started page indicates its use of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption technique. SSL is used by many other counseling sites, too.

No amount of privacy can be realistically guaranteed. Even paper medical and mental health records are stolen from time to time. Consider the steps being taken to protect your private life at every interaction with therapists. Take pride in the fact that tending to your issues is an act of courage and decency. In the event that your confidentiality is breached, you need not condemn yourself for trying to improve your life.

A brief “Anonymity Guaranteed” survey made for the purposes of preparing this feature yielded limited results. Exactly one respondent indicated that “I had a superb experience with chat rooms years ago on Fibromyalgia (which I needed at age 46 when I first got sick) as they were led by professionals. I didn’t use my real name and the moderator knew her medical information and kept order in the chat room.” That’s not a wide-ranging look at the safety and security of online chat therapy, but coupled with the indications of therapy sites taking security measures to protect their clients, it seems that online confidentiality between therapist and client is as secure and as safe as possible as therapists and their site administrators could make it.