This is a kind of clinical therapy that is implemented by the use of IM (instant messaging), email or phone contact. It makes people who are interested in therapy but have insurance, time and money limits, amongst other challenges, receive therapy (Abott, Klein & Ciechomski, 2008). Another definition given by Rochlen, Zack and Speyer (2004), is “any type of professional therapeutic interaction that makes use of the internet to connect qualified mental health professionals and their clients”. In reality, this kind of therapy has not been used until recently. It has received appreciation, criticism, questions, doubts and rejections from the people and the professionals.
Problems Facing the Treatment
Although online therapy has its benefits both seen and unseen, most debates have been held on its challenges, its effectiveness and the actual course of its existence. One major challenge evident in this kind of treatment is the nonverbal behaviors. In one on one therapy, a health professional is able to read a lot from the nonverbal behaviors. These include facial expressions, the movement of other body parts, silence, and so on. This challenge rules out the therapeutic approaches that signify the presence of the in-person (Childress, 2000).
Online therapy can greatly make one misunderstand the other through misreading. This applies to both sides. For example, the client who have poor ego may miss the relevant reassurance that is granted by the professional through facial expressions. Those professionals who have insufficient knowledge on this type of therapy may fail to read in between the line. Another challenge that is quite seen is the time delay present in between emails, messages, and other electronic methods used (Rochlen et al., 2004). This may alter the effectiveness of the spontaneous response needed through one on one therapy.
Skill deficiency is another challenge. If the health professional and the client are not good writers, there is a problem. Worse still, the effectiveness is likely to get lost if the client in question does not like writing at all. The words used must also be well understood by both parties or a misunderstanding will take place. A crisis intervention is another evident challenge that was noted. There are cases when a professional will be concerned about a client’s safety or his/her status in general. This cannot be well clarified through an email or a text message. This becomes hard to be effective especially if a client thinks of committing suicide.
Another evident challenge that is experienced more often than not is identifying the identity of the other party. In most cases, there is no sure way of knowing whether the person on the other end is the right one. There can be the use of passwords or code words in order to identify the parties, but this are not very safe (Recupero & Rainy, 2006). The confidentiality of the information being passed on from one person to another is not guaranteed. If a person manages to hack into the communication systems, then they will be able to access the information. Some professionals do not use the required protocols which put the client at an even a higher risk of his/her information leaking out. The legal and ethical issues raised are more than enough. If the right ethical procedures are not followed, then the method is not safe.
Why I Chose the Topic
From the outline of it, having online therapy is something quite interesting to review. I wanted to find out whether the challenges are worth making the sacrifice for. I wanted to verify whether the challenges are greater or less than the method’s advantages. Although it has been used in the last couple of years, it still poses as a risk especially on the client’s part (Childress, 2000). How sure is one that the person on the other end is full professional or just an imposter? Deeper research should be carried out on the method and better ways of maintaining the doctor-patient privacy implemented.
Abbott, J.-A., Klein, B., & Ciechomski, L. (2008). Best Practices in Online Therapy. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 26, 360-375.
Childress, C. A. (January 01, 2000). Ethical issues in providing online psychotherapeutic interventions. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2, 1.
Recupero, P. R., & Rainey, S. E. (January 01, 2006). Characteristics of e-therapy web sites. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67, 9, 1435-40.
Rochlen, A. B., Zack, J. S. & Speyer, C., (2004). Online Therapy: Review of Relevant Defitions, Debates, and Current Empirical Support. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 60, 269-283.