Thursday, January 7, 2010

Online counselling: The future is not so different than the past

Online counselling, online therapy, e-therapy, e-counselling, cybercounselling, virtual counselling and email counselling all describe the same thing - counselling services which are provided online. While some counsellors engage with clients through asynchronous or live chat online or through live webcam sessions, much online counselling is very similar to the lost art of letter-writing and journaling.

Anyone who has had the experience of letter-writing knows of the emotional intensity that can happen between people who are sharing their inner experiences by writing to each other. The letters can be every bit as intense (or more) as a face-to-face counselling session. Likewise, journaling can also be an intense, soulful and wonderful way of sorting out issues and experiences in our lives. Dialoguing with an online counsellor through writing and reflection is a powerful way of getting support and making changes.

Online counselling really helps in a number of ways. The letter writing that is part of online counselling is itself therapeutic. Writing about thoughts and feelings helps to make sense of them. And the research supports that a therapeutic letter can be as powerful as 4 to 10 face to face counselling sessions! Online counselling may have longer-term benefits since the client has a permanent record of correspondences to refer to as a reminder and support.

The anonymity of writing letters online may sometimes free people up to really “talk” about what’s on their mind. If you’ve ever experienced the intensity of a letter to a close friend or family member you will know how powerful letters can be. Online counselling sometimes allows a greater degree of intimacy because clients feel less inhibited to express their thoughts and feelings. This can be particularly important for people who have not experienced counselling before and are somewhat reticent about seeing a face-to-face counselor. Online counselling is also a natural and safe place to talk with people who are shy or who may feel embarrassed talking about difficult issues such as sexuality or addictions.

The convenience of online counselling is undoubtedly a strong factor explaining its increasing popularity. Online counselling appeals to people who may not be able to access counselling services or have very limited access because of their geography or because of mobility issues. Online counselling also appeals to people who because of child care, health concerns or time constraints would find it difficult to attend face-to-face counselling sessions. Finally, online counselling appeals to people because written communication allows people to reflect on their experience and express themselves in a way that doesn’t necessarily happen with face to face or telephone counselling. Finally, online counselling can be accessed without having to wait to schedule an appointment.

So while the internet technology and the idea of counselling happening through exchange of correspondences between counsellor and client is new, the power and intimacy of connecting through letters and the written word has been around for a long time.


David Boudreau


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  3. It is really a nice and helpful piece of information on online counselling. I’m happy that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.