Strategies and Resources for Conducting Online Counseling

By Haherstroh, Shane | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Strategies and Resources for Conducting Online Counseling


Haherstroh, Shane, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


Drawing from clinical, supervisory, and research resources related to implementing online counseling services, the author provides practical suggestions for counselors considering or using the Internet as a counseling medium. The author outlines ethical and technical considerations, counselor characteristics, and some specific strategies to employ during online counseling. The author also includes a checklist to evaluate online practices and details an analysis of state licensure codes related to online counseling.

There has been significant growth in online counseling services (Dubois, 2005; Heinlen, Reynolds-Welfel, Richmond, & Rak, 2003; Mallen, Vogel, & Rochlen, 2005), with the American Counseling Association (2005) including best practices for online counseling in its recent ethical guidelines, and the Center for Credentialing and Education (2008) offering professional counselors specialized distance counseling certification. These rapid advances in Internet access and online communication, coupled with a growing acceptance of online counseling as a distinct approach, present unique opportunities for counselors. As a relatively new clinical medium, a need exists for counselors to have access to updated reviews of resources and strategies for online practice (Chester &C Glass, 2006; Vaccaro & Lambie 2007). Therefore, in this article the author presents a review of the literature and outlines specific strategies and resources for delivering profesional online counseling.

The Internet as a Counseling Medium

Dubois (2004) found a growing number of counselors delivered online counsiling services, and speculated the number of online providers would rise. to explore the current frequency of potential online counseling websites, this author conducted an Internet search in September of 2008 using the term, online counseling via the search engine at http://www. google.com. This query returned over 4 million websites. This growth in counseling related websites far exceeded the projections by Sampson, Kolodinsky, and Greeno (1997) who only found approximately four thousand counseling-related websites in their search.

Exploring this potential clinical environment, some researchers found online counseling was helpful for many individuals, with clients reporting benefits form this therapeutic style (Cook & Doyle 2002; Leibert, Archer, Munson, & York 2006; Reynolds, Stiles, & Grohol 2006). Specifically, researchers found online treatment was potentially effective for treating individuals struggling with depression (Chris tensen, Griffiths, &C Jorm, 2004), anxiety (Kenardy, McCafferty, &C Rosa, 2003), and eating disorders (Zabinski, Celio, Wilfley, 8c Taylor, 2003). In addition, authors discussed that online counseling was potentially viable because it provided clients with a therapeutic relationship that included (a) perceived anonymity, (b) convenience, (c) accessibility, (d) the benefits of therapeutic writing, and (e) the perception of a trained, competent, and empathie online counselor (Haberstroh, Duffey, Evans, &£ Trepal, 2007; Reynolds, Stiles, &C Grohol, 2006; Young, 2005). Furthermore, Mallen, Vogel, &C Rochlen (2005) suggested online counseling was helpful for individuals living in rural areas and those with disabilities who found it difficult to travel to traditional settings. Finally, counselors in training reported facilitating online counseling was easier because they were able to peruse their session transcripts. This allowed them to view the running dialogue during the sessions, or upon reflection, potentially picking up on clinical themes they may have missed in face-to-face settings (Haberstroh, Parr, Bradley, MorganFleming, & Gee2008).

However, other researchers expressed concerns about the suitability of online counseling for some individuals. For example, Leibert et al. (2006) suggested the perceived anonymity of online counseling was appealing to clients; however, when surveyed, participants in their study favored face-to-face sessions. …

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