eTherapy, distance counseling, online counseling, and tele-health counseling are all terms for counseling or psychotherapy that occurs over telephone, text-based chat, video chat, email and even virtual world environments like SecondLife.
Distance counseling isn't really all that new when you consider that suicide hotlines and crisis lines have existed since the 1950s. Telemedicine (the use of telecommunication technology to connect doctors to patients in remote locations) has been around for over a decade and has proven to be beneficial to many people who may otherwise have no healthcare options what-so-ever.
Since the personal computer revolution and easy accessibility to the internet took hold in the 1990s, many mental health practitioners have used various technology-based modes to connect with clients who were unable to meet in a practitioner's office due to transportation issues, location changes, physical and mental health conditions.
Today, there are many sites like TherapyLiveCare.com offering to connect potential clients to licensed practitioners of behavioral health services. Not all of these services are created equal. It's important for potential clients to look for sites that provide:
- verification of a practitioner's license or certification to practice therapy
- access to therapists with specific training and experience in distance counseling
- practice limits on providers to work only with clients located in their own state/province of licensure or certification
- a secure website (https) with HIPAA compliant methods of connecting the therapist and client
Providers who have training and experience in distance counseling will often have the DCC (Distance Credentialed Counselor) after their name. Many will also be members of the American Distance Counseling Association (ADCC).
You may be a good candidate for distance counseling if you:
- have mobility issues, transportation issues or severe time-restrictions
- limited number of qualified providers in your local area
- feel extremely stigmatized by having to attend face-to-face counseling
- have the necessary communication technology and the technical know-how to trouble shoot basic computer connectivity issues
- have a reliable mode of connecting to a high-speed internet or cell phone network
Not every therapist or client will find distance counseling preferable to face-to-face counseling, but it appears to be here to stay and to meet the needs of many who might otherwise go without.