Even though you may not have heard the term “E-Therapy” before, you’ve probably heard of the different terms that fall under the terminology like “internet counseling”, “online therapy”, “telepsychology”, or “online counseling”. Basically any form of mental health therapy (including marriage, family, and group counseling) conducted over an electronic interface like email, text messaging, video conferencing, telephone, chat rooms, and discussion boards. With the improvement of electronic communication over the years, many more services can now be provided over long-distances and received in the comfort of the home or whenever it is needed. But, is E-therapy the right level of care for you?
Is It Official?
Yes, the American Counseling Association, American Psychological Association, and National Board of Certified Counselors, all recognize E-therapy as a form of providing therapeutic services. In their respective Code of Ethics, they all have guidelines for best practices when providing services over electronic devices. But the use of E-therapy has its positives and negatives that you need to weigh before jumping in.
Flexible and Accessible
The clear benefit of an electronic form of service is ease of access. When traditional therapy may be difficult to find in your location, E-Therapy can provide you services that normally would not be possible. Beyond the benefits of distance, certain E-Therapy resources like crisis intervention/suicide hotlines can be accessed at any time. With just a click of a button or call, you can be connected with someone in a few minutes.
Reduced Barrier of Entry
If you are intimidated or deterred by the thought of having to go to the counseling office for whatever reason (agoraphobia, experience stress or anxiety in public, etc), E-Therapy can be an effective way of easing your way into the therapeutic process.
Costs of Treatment
Depending on the service and where it is located, the price of E-Therapy can be less than traditional face-to-face counseling. Other than reduced direct fees, travel costs, or consultations may be significantly cheaper through online communication.
This may not be as big of an issue when doing video-conference sessions that are face-to-face, but when using text-based/email forms of communication or disjointed communication can be filled with unintended messages. Messages may come off as rude or harsh, when in reality the sender did not intend to convey that at all. Emotions are difficult to communicate over text. The non-verbal language is not there to help carry the message. It may take longer for you to express what you mean to say. Non-verbals like hand gestures and facial expressions can help carry your voice and emotions of parts that are hard to express. Your therapist will not be able to or will be hard to see this subtle information through non-direct/non-visible forms of E-Therapy.
When you introduce technology, you introduce the bugs and glitches that come with it. If there is something wrong with the computer, internet, application, etc, then your service will be interrupted. Also, if you are not quite tech-savvy, it may be difficult to troubleshoot different problems that may arise from using technology.
Level of Care
While the flexibility and accessibility of E-Therapy is big draw to the service, it may not be the amount of focused care you need to help you with what you are going through. Your provider can help you determine if the service will meet you needs, but if at any time you feel like E-therapy is not helping you, you may have to consider more direct forms of therapy.
I hope that this information has been helpful to anyone considering any form of E-Therapy. Like I mentioned, E-Therapy could be significantly beneficial to you, or may not fully address your problems and concerns. Take some time to consider the pros and cons of utilizing this service and take these initial steps to getting the help you need!