There are enough statistics indicating the efficacy of online therapy to leave little doubt that it works, especially for clients who function on the Internet with ease. The range of digital therapeutic opportunities range from classic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Life Coaching, all the way to the Breakthrough site’s self-administered psychological assessments and ease of booking appointments for online psychiatric care, counseling, or life coaching. A person can chat online, communicate by E-mail or live video, and even speak with a therapist via Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) lines.
Security issues, the availability of qualified digital therapists, regulatory standards, and billing issues have been addressed in previous articles at e-counseling.com. Online therapy holds many benefits for today’s digitally savvy user as it can minimize missed appointments due to distances and bad traffic, and promote the ease of booking appointments around the clock. The differences among online therapy providers, and relevant legal issues, however, have not yet been fully addressed.
Online therapists including social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and coaches are supposed to be licensed within the states where they practice. Online clients of their services owe it to themselves to check out that licensing plus the reputation of specific therapists within the professional organizations relevant to their practice.
There are significant differences in various forms of therapy. Talk therapy is about conversation and the client’s increasing insights into themselves and into life overall. Psychiatry is about the use of mind-altering medication to better deal with mood, personality and thought disorders beyond the control of simple willpower. Psychology is about a more sophisticated analysis of human behavior and how to modify it than social work would provide. Social work is about helping a person to understand what they’re doing to sabotage their life and how to satisfy personal needs in a more productive manner, and about accessing benefits afforded to people with specific problems. All of that is about making changes in the client’s thinking and behavior. Coaching, however, is not a situation in which the counselor addresses the client’s past, nor about changing a client’s conduct at all. A client and their life coach focus on present and future goals, singling out the challenges to meeting them and co-planning to overcome those obstacles. Almost a simple cheerleading effort, coaching puts the client in complete control of their wellbeing. They are coaxed into accountability and self-empowerment.
In the event that clients believe that their online therapist abused or betrayed them, the lack of legal precedents in addressing online malpractice leaves users of online therapeutic services in some legal limbo. This situation might improve over time. It is wise to speak with a lawyer first, before starting to use an online therapist. That allows the client to gather relevant information and to forge ahead as an informed consumer.
As to securing the services of a therapist appropriate to the problems at hand, users aka therapy clients need to pay attention to details. Various therapy sites present the qualifications of their staff members, with explanations as to the suitability of one type of therapist over another. Due diligence is mandatory. A client should take reasonable, appropriate actions to find the therapist best able to address their needs. Nobody will do the homework for you. If they did, you’d be disempowered, not taking charge of your own well-being, and possibly insufficiently informed about important issues.
Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.