Virtual Marriage Counseling a Click Away

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 27, 2008 | Go to article overview

Virtual Marriage Counseling a Click Away


Byline: Karen Goldberg Goff, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

You can try on bathing suits with a virtual-fit model, meet a mate and take college classes online. Now, increasingly, one can work on solving problems and strengthening a marriage with the click of a mouse.

Getting help without driving to the therapist's office, looking for a parking spot and spilling thoughts face to face is a natural fit for couples therapy, says Diane Sollee, founder and director of the Washington-based Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. With online tools, workshop exercises and DVDs, it is much easier to show couples what to do rather than focus on how bad things are, she says.

So much of bad therapy is in person, Ms. Sollee says. The modality tends to focus on how bad things are or how you can blame your mother. It can very quickly lead to divorce. We now live in the information age; anything in therapy can be done online or through printouts and DVDs under the banner of many different marriage experts.

There are many choices in e-therapy marriage-counseling programs, so it helps to shop around, says John Grohol, chief executive of PsychCentral.com, a mental health Web site, and former president of the International Society for Mental Health Online. If a couple is seeking the kind of counseling with e-mail communication and coaching, it is important to check credentials - such as licensure and education - the same way one would with an in-person therapist, he says.

A reliable Web counseling service such as Helphorizons.com or Etherapists.com will have vetted the credentials of professionals, and it will give couples a variety of counselors from whom to choose, Mr. Grohol says.

Ms. Sollee says there are many choices and approaches to take when choosing a virtual program. One might have to shop around before finding a good fit.

It is like weight loss, she says. We are always looking for the new thing. Some are going to like Weight Watchers; others are going to like Jenny Craig. We know [that] some couples who need to learn to communicate need to see how to do it; some just need to learn how to listen.

One program new to the online counseling arena is from eHarmony, the online dating service that says it has led to 90 people per day tying the knot since it began a decade ago.

If one looks at the statistic that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, eHarmony has its next market ready and waiting. The company recently launched www.marriage . …

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