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Real Solutions for Real People with Real Problems
Today, when problems of any nature arise, the first place people turn is the Internet. Whether it’s a word that needs defining, an argument that needs settling or a job that needs to be located, the World Wide Web has become an ultimate “Oracle” of sorts. People are facing more serious challenges in their lives nowadays, problems such as:
- Addiction to alcohol
- Drug dependency
- Domestic violence
- Relationship issues
- Sexual abuse
In these cases, online counseling is an alternative eagerly sought out in an attempt to locate the solutions that are so desperately needed.
A Valid Answer to Today’s Problems
Although counseling of any kind, including online counseling, does have certain limitations, one of the key concerns of those in need is credibility. Just as there is a great debate between attending traditional schools versus an online university when in pursuit of a degree, many people wonder if online counseling services can ever live up to the benefits of a traditional office visit. Despite the fact that many believe that face-to-face interaction is a critical aspect of the healing process; still others stress the fact that the certain level of anonymity provided through consulting an online therapist gives patients the freedom and confidence to tackle tough issues that might otherwise leave them feeling very uncomfortable or vulnerable.
Internet Online Counseling: A Brief History
Even though few people realize it, online counseling has been around for longer than many might think – approximately 40 years or so. While the origins of online counseling were primarily educational and informational, this eventually progressed to entail more than just “giving advice” and developed into the comprehensive counseling once relegated to office visits. For all intents and purposes, the first demonstration of Internet counseling emerged in October of 1972 during the ICCC (International Conference on Computer Communication), where a simulated psychotherapy session was held between linked computers in Stanford and UCLA. Later on in 1995, free and fee-based mental health services were soon being offered to the public at large via the Internet. Since then, the phenomenon has taken the world by storm.
The Two Major Outlets of Online Counseling
For the most part, online counseling has evolved to include two major categories. The first is online counseling, also known as E-therapy. Through this approach, therapists and counselors have worked to build online practices that don’t just offer advice, but seek to actively build deep and meaningful relationships with their online clients, devoting the same level of attention and care that patients have come to expect in face-to-face encounters. By taking full advantage of today’s technology, ranging from email, instant messaging, online chat, discussion boards, cell phones and video conferencing, online therapists offer their patients addiction, marriage, mental health and a host of other services on the patient’s terms and conveniences.
The second category of online counseling is mental health advice. Here, counseling and psychotherapy professionals build relationships not by the one-on-one approach, but instead through soliciting questions from the population at large and then broadcasting responses. Using this approach, therapists seek out questions that have a universal appeal and then work to comprehensively answer those questions. Not only do they reach their regular viewers, but through the clever use of online marketing tactics, also reach potential “patients” through search engines and other similar methods.
The Ethics of Online Counseling
When first exposed to the concept of online counseling, many ask the question “Is it ethical?” The resounding answer from the medical community is “Yes.” Numerous professional organizations in the counseling industries have either signed off on the ethics of online counseling or have worked to redefine the standards to ensure safety and privacy. These include the American Counseling Association, American Mental Health Counselors Association and the National Board for Certified Counselors.