E-therapy or Online counselling is Counselling via email, live chat, audio/video calls, computerised self-help or email. Contrary to traditional counselling, you can now contact your counsellor with the click of the mouse or ‘meet’ your counsellor for a session over your laptop or tablet. With the trends in technology, online counselling is starting to become a viable option for both clients and therapists.
People do question the benefits of Online Counselling due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, and in some cases, a possible absence of verbal and non-verbal cues. Being physically present together in the same space can be of great therapeutic value and working online therefore may not have the same benefits.
What impact do these factors have on the therapeutic alliance, or the relationship between client and counsellor, which is proven to be the greatest predictor of outcomes? There are various studies suggesting that online counselling is as effective as face-to-face counselling- by looking at the strength of the therapeutic alliance. Some studies report that the therapeutic alliance is better in-person than online (Leibert et al., 2006). Other studies have rated no difference as such between the two (Cohen and Kerr, 1998), and a third group of studies have found the therapeutic alliance as being stronger online than in-person (Cooke and Doyle, 2002). Ainsworth, 1995, states that over 90% of the people who work with a therapist online said that it helped them.
In my four years’ experience with online counselling, I have found that many clients may not have even considered speaking to a Counsellor had there not be an option to do it online. For people with issues related to confidentiality, anxiety and disability, online counselling might really be the only option. In such cases, online counselling provides help to many who would not otherwise receive it.
The Counselling Directory (2016) mentions three benefits of Online counselling:
Easy access: Online counselling appointments are usually more easily available. It saves travel time and helps clients connect with therapists who might live in another city or country. It is also convenient for those with child care responsibilities or those living in remote locations.
Anonymity: Clients do not have to worry about bumping into someone they know in the counsellor’s waiting area, or may even choose to have more privacy when it comes to selecting the therapist.
Affordability: Online counselling is usually more affordable as compared to face-to-face counselling.
Moreover, the absence of visual cues can be compensated for in video calls on Skype, for example. Gestures and facial expressions can be easily discerned in such cases.
We might conclude that online counselling may not be suitable for everyone. Both online and face-to-face counselling have their pros and cons and I believe it is for individuals to decide what might work best for them given their situation.
About The Author
Soha Daru is a Psychological Therapist and Counsellor with six years’ experience counselling at various organizations including the NHS. She is a registered member of the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) and British Psychological Society (BPS) and works according to their codes of ethics. She helps clients struggling with low mood, depression, anxiety, stress, grief and relationship issues. You can get in touch with her via the contact form below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Speyer, C. and Zack, J. (n.d.). Online Counselling: beyond the Pros and Cons. Available at <https://www.easna.org/> [Accessed 5 March 2016].
- Counselling Directory (2016) <http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/> [Accessed 22 October 2016].
- Best Counseling Degrees (2016) <http://www.bestcounselingdegrees.net/> [Accessed 5 March 2016].
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- Cabannis, D. L. (2012) The Therapeutic Alliance: The Essential Ingredient for Psychotherapy <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/> [Accessed 17 September 2016].
- O’Mahony, C. and Wilson, J. (2016). The Internet and Me: Online Therapeutic Relationships-The Research to Date. [Online] Available at:<http://www.onlinevents.co.uk/> [Accessed 5 March 2016].
- Ainsworth, M. (1995) ABC’s of Internet Therapy<http://www.metanoia.org/> [Accessed 5 March 2016].