E-counseling (A Comprehensive Guide)

E-counseling

E-Counselling is becoming one of the most popular models of support among the people of the young generation at a rapid pace with different national services like Kids Helpline, Lifeline, Suicide Call back service opening up their own sections of E-Counselling service.

Here, we will be discussing what E-Counselling is and what are the advantages and disadvantages of E-Counselling.

E-counseling (A Comprehensive Guide)

Why do people use E-Counselling?

Nowadays many people tend to go for E-Counselling rather than an in-person one which might be due to multiple reasons, some of them are stated as :

  • Lack of time – they do not have enough time to schedule an in-person office based appointment or are unable to spend time while traveling to see a therapist of a counselor
  • Physical hurdles – there might be some physical hurdles which might prevent them from moving around
  • Shyness or embarrassment – they feel more discreet and confident when their counseling session is done remotely and online and not face to face
  • Agoraphobia or social anxiety – different mental health issues and phobias might prevent the client from spending time in a new environment or from traveling

What are the advantages and disadvantages of E-Counselling?

It has already been researched that the combination of cognitive behavior therapy and internet counseling is effective on a number of clinical issues.

Internet counseling or web counseling basically defines the counseling services that are given over the internet which might include, online face to face video calls, chat rooms, webcams, or emails.

There are multiple names given to web or E-Counselling such as e-therapy, tele-counseling, cyber counseling, and e-counseling.

This form of counseling is also under increasing debate in relation to its effectiveness as in comparison to traditional counseling. 

Benefits

Accessibility

E-Counselling is easier to access online and is in the grasp of every individual who knows how to use the internet.

E-Counselling and therapy also help in eradicating some barriers that might hinder some people from seeking help using therapy.

For instance, for people who are residing in some far fetch or rural area or somewhere where it is quite impossible to get a therapist or counseling services, they can benefit highly from E-Counselling services. 

Especially, it is beneficial for people who are unable to leave their homes or have some type of physical disability can easily access the counseling from certified professionals using the E-Counselling service at their own convenience.

People with hearing and visual impairments can also use E-Counselling services and benefit from it.

E-counseling services are also effective when dealing with teenagers and children as they are more comfortable with using the internet so they feel at ease while receiving therapy through it.

E-counseling (A Comprehensive Guide)

Convenience

E-Counselling is also convenient for both the person taking it and the therapist as therapy can be taken out at any time convenient for both.

E-Counselling can also help out the therapist as it takes away the problems involving scheduling and setting of appointments which are of common practice in the traditional settings of taking counseling.

This also gives the therapist an option to be able to schedule therapy sessions anywhere in between the 24 hour time period, making it possible for him to reach more clients and a larger geographical area.

For the individuals who are reluctant about going to a traditional therapy session with traditional ways of giving therapy, this can be a better and more comfortable approach and might suit them better as it has been studied that people who feel uncomfortable while talking face to face with the therapist tend to be more comfortable in an E-Counselling environment.

Also, individuals with different types of phobia or problems that might hinder them from approaching counseling in a traditional setting will also feel more comfortable taking E-Counselling sessions.

Affordability

E-Counselling is taken to be more affordable and more convenient for both clients and the therapist.

Especially, in the case of the therapist, it is more economical when they are not able to afford the rent of commercial space for their practice, thereby lowering their overall cost of the property, commuting, and administrative procedures as compared with a traditional setting of counseling. 

Social stigma

E-Counselling can also help with the eradication of social stigma which is associated with the receiving of therapy.

E-Counselling can help individuals access such services that they might be uncomfortable with while visiting a traditional counseling center.

Counseling, when executed by the client in their home environment, can be taken to a whole new level and can help a client more.

It will also help them to feel more comfortable with other people not staring at them while they are waiting for their session or having a confrontation with different people while in the waiting room.

Because of its advantages, E-Counselling offers a better environment for the client to receive his session in by reducing the social stigma and help them to seek guidance in matters in which they otherwise would have hesitated to seek help in. 

Anonymity

This sense of anonymity because of the absence of face to face interaction can also help clients to be more open and communicate with the therapist without any concerns for biases based on gender, size, race, or physical appearance.

This sense of security can further lead to an enhanced level of honesty and therefore makes it easier for the therapist to validate the issue accurately.

E-Counselling offers this high level of anonymity which helps users to perceive therapy as non-threatening through this form of invisibility.

Variant ways to communicate

The common way of communicating through the internet in E-Counselling is in the written form, which can be either through emails or via chat in different chat rooms, this allows both the therapist and the client to pay their utmost attention to their mutual communication and to reflect on their feelings and thoughts before putting them in written form and expressing them through it.

This might be more suitable for clients who have difficulty in conveying their message when talking face to face and are way better in expressing themselves through writing.

Clients might be able to express themselves better and communicate their feelings in such an environment where they are not much affected by the nonverbal cues of the therapist.

Researches have come to the conclusion that during times of distress, writing also helps clients or an individual to express his emotions through a proper channel and work towards his emotional healing process.

Considering that E-Counselling is another form of interactive therapeutic writing, then the interventions given in such an environment can further push clients to express themselves in more insightful, thoughtful, and self-reflective ways.

Having express themselves in writing also helps the clients, later on, to take it as a reference for future discussion or for review and assessment of their progress and positive or negative changes inside them.

Because of the advantages E-counselling provides, not only to it’s clients but also to the counselors, many wish to find jobs where they can practice their counseling sessions online.

Therefore, if you’re a counselor, looking for E-counselling jobs, you should definitely read a blog on E-counselling jobs.

E-counseling (A Comprehensive Guide)

Disadvantages

While there have been numerous benefits of E-Counselling, there are also some areas in which E-Counselling has been criticized especially because of the absence of nonverbal and verbal cues, overall effectiveness, difficulties in maintaining security and confidentiality, limits of guaranteeing a therapist’s credibility and technological difficulties.

Some of these disadvantages are listed below :

Absence of verbal and nonverbal cues

The absence of nonverbal and verbal cues also has its advantages but there are also some disadvantages concerning therapy regarding their absence in E-Counselling.

Verbal and nonverbal cues or interactions are a fundamental part that lets the therapist gauge the feelings of the client and helps him with identifying the incongruences or discrepancies between his verbal and nonverbal behavior.

One of the basic things E-Counselling has been criticized for is the lacking of such micro-skills and essential elements of counseling. 

Whereas the ways of traditional counseling heavily rely on the characteristics of both nonverbal and verbal cues as a way of gaining insights into feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and also as a form of communication with the clients presenting concerns.

E-Counselling is limited in the indication of characteristics like facial expression, eye contact, voice tone, and body language which can result in having a negative impact on the outcomes of the counseling as the therapist has no way to observe the client.

Confidentiality and security

Certified psychologists or mental health practitioners have the ethical and professional responsibility to keep everything related to their clients confidential and private.

While during the course of E-Counselling there is a chance that the records and information of their clients might be jeopardized and their privacy and confidentiality are at risk of being breached inappropriately as the mode of counseling is through writing. 

Although most of the websites that offer E-Counselling also boost the security of their writing channels and the privacy and confidentiality related to it, stating the use of the latest security software, the mental health practitioner might need to keep updated with the software upgrades and technology to prevent any such breach on their E-Counselling platforms.

Effectiveness

Different professionals and even normal people with time have always questioned the effectiveness of online counseling sessions and interventions.

This is currently the most discussed topic in research and researchers have been looking at different ways to make E-Counselling sessions and interventions more effective with changing and experimenting with the medium of counseling too.

The lack of interacting face to face with the clients has its own risk and that is why online therapy is not considered a good form for diagnosis of clinical issues.

Technological difficulties

This is normal for the internet connections to falter and the computer to fail while doing E-Counselling.

For instance, people who are living in a remote area which will have low transmission and might drop out in between or at regular intervals or crashing of the servers.

The setup of E-Counselling is also determined based on the knowledge and skills of the client whether he is able to utilize the technology for counseling or not. 

E-counseling (A Comprehensive Guide)

Therapist credibility

One of the other disadvantages of E-Counselling is the credibility of the therapists, as there is no assurance of the qualifications and credentials of the therapists offering E-Counselling service and the client is not assured whether the person is a bonafide mental health practitioner or an inexperienced newbie who is just starting to experiment on people.

FAQ about e-counseling 

What is meant by E-Counselling?

E-Counselling is the way for mental health professionals to offer their services using the internet or web technologies. 

How does E-Counselling work?

E-Counselling can be taken out using the internet through emails or chat rooms where the mode of communications is mostly in written form which allows both the therapist and the client to pay close attention to the words they are writing and help them in reflecting on their feelings and thoughts before putting them in words. 

References

Reachout.com (n.d.): “Online counseling: Pros and cons

UK therapy guide (n.d.): “Online Counselling Therapy”

E-counseling (A Comprehensive Guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.