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This refers to the provision of professional mental health counseling service concerns through the internet. These services are typically provided through the email, real-time charts and some times video conferencing. Some of the clients use online counseling combined with traditional psychotherapy, while others use it as an occasional tool for check-in for their lives, (Kraus, et al, 2004). This paper identifies three online therapy website, and discusses the content of each site and the professionals that are involved. On top of that it explains on how the actual online interaction occurs. It addresses on how the professional associations and state regulatory boards view online therapy. Lastly it looks at the ethical issues like the informed consent, confidentiality and the security issues.
The first online website is the www.lzcybershrink.com. The service provider is the licensed clinical social worker and a psychotherapist. She has an experience of 20 years according to her bibliography and has a private practice in New York. Online therapy is provided via chat room setting. The client has to schedule an appointment with Ms Zelvin who is the service provider before hand through the email. Then the password is provided by the service provider where then both the client and the client sign in at the same time at a prearranged time and start charting online. The charges on this website is by the half hour, hour or by the email charges. Also credit cards and PayPal’s have to be paid before the starting time of the therapy, (Zelvin, 2010).
The second website that provides online therapy is www.live-counselr.com. It also uses the setting of a chart room. On this website over 200 therapists, social workers, counselors are available. It allows their clients to search for either therapist/social worker or even the counselor by the issue they like to be assisted on. The site gives assistance with the addictions, crisis coping or the physical conditions, parenting, eating disorder, personal development, emotional disorders among others. The services are charged as per minute with varying charging rates. The live counselor does not have to make any appointment; clients might sign in at any time their service provider is online. The clients know who is online via the site posting it by their profile. There are no any other content in the site apart from the bibliography of the service providers, disclaimers in regard to untaken responsibility for anything that happens on the site. And the billing processes.
The last site to look at is www.serenityonlinetherapy.com. It offers the therapy through the email or a chart room setting. There is one service provider called Carl Benedict, who is a licensed clinical professional counselor in the Maryland state. He has a working experience of 14 years as a therapist in the mental health clinic and in a hospital, plus the three years in online therapy experience. He charges per minute chat and there is an opportunity for the client to purchase packages that are offered at a slight discount for the online therapy. There are many articles that are posted in regard to different issues that might be experienced by the clients like; depression, addiction, grief and loss, child trauma, parenting and the duel diagnosis, (Benedict, 2010).
Most states and countries have license professional counselors. For example in the U.S. the state counselor licensing board administers the processes of application and the established procedures by law in every state. The National Board for Certified Counselors website lists the contact information for every state’s apart from California, the Mental Health Board. The site enables the clients the capability of checking the credentials of the professionals offering online therapy and a make a decision that is informed on whether or not or not to hire that particular counselor, (The National Board for Certified Counselors, 2010).
In the places that advance technologies exist, the issues of security and ethics will have to arise. There are few concerns that are brought up by the online therapy; security, if the therapy is safe and effective, if client can really provide informed consent and monitoring who truly is in the room of chat claiming to be the client or the professional. All the three websites discussed above have disclaimers stating for example “if you have serious thoughts of hurting yourself, dial 911, or if you have chronic mental illness requiring intense treatment, online therapy is not an option for you.” (Benedict, 2009). This clearly indicated on every website does not that the client has to adhere to these rules. If for example the client happens to have chronic illness and he is unaware, then he is not able to provide the informed consent. Also the therapist has no means of knowing that the patient has the chronic illness or has had thoughts about hurting himself. The therapist so has to relay on the full disclose if any and all pertinent information.
Most of the websites use the set-up like that of a chart room with the clients. After the client paying the fee or register a credit card, then the online therapist provides the client with the password. Then the client uses this particular password to log-in into the chat room and the therapy session began. The client has no way of identifying what kinds of security software or the measures that the online the therapist is using to protect their personal conversation. There is no guarantee that the therapist has revealed his or her true identity. In the traditional set up, the client ant the therapist have the chance of knowing who is there, (The National Board for Certified Counselors, 2010).
The online therapy limits the options that the client has in regard to paying for the therapy and the clients take greater risks providing payment for online therapy. All the websites discussed above need the payment through credit cards; clients risk their credit card information when registering the card online; in the traditional office set-up the client credit card is just swiped or make cash or check payments. So that clients have more control of their individual information and more payment options.
As with any advancement that is new, ethical issues come up, such as it is ethical to provide online therapy when there are no guarantees the clients and therapists claim whom they are. In the traditional office set-up, the client and the therapist can use identity cards to prove the identity. Online therapy does not need medical records how then is the therapist has to know the mental and physical health of the clients? The therapist has to depend on the self-disclosure, which means taking a greater risk on the behalf of the therapist. How should therapists tell if the client has a full participation in the therapy process? In the traditional set-up the therapists can make use of body language which is how most human communications are made, (Kraus, et al, 2004).
I myself do not like the online therapist, since many risks are involved in the process. In the traditional therapy session, give room for the therapist to get a full picture of the well being of the client by having access to medical records and able to read the body language of the clients. Am also uncomfortable with online therapy cause I like knowing who is helping me, how he or she look like for security purposes
The online therapy is advantageous to me because I do not have an access to a therapist near me, am also nervous about counseling in the presence of many people. Further more my schedule keep me from getting help in person and lastly, I can’t afford seeing the counsel or in person.
In conclusion, I believe that the clients have to look at the advantages and disadvantages so that they can make informed decision whether to visit the online therapy or not. Every individual has personal wants and conditions therefore; no one has the power to dictate what works for a certain person. Generally, technology is good and bad at the same time.