In a previous blog post we briefly discussed telecounseling and whether or not it’s an effective way to seek treatment by a therapist. In this post we take a closer look at this popular approach to therapy and answer some frequently asked questions about it.
What is telecounseling?
Before proceeding, let’s review what telecounseling is:
Telecounseling is similar to traditional therapy in that the client and the therapist work together to resolve the client’s problems or manage their symptoms.
The difference is that the client and therapist are using the telephone and/or the Internet to communicate instead of meeting in-person. Telecounseling can be done via phone call, chat rooms, online video conferences or even a combination of these methods.
Additionally, telecounseling can sometimes involve pre-recorded sessions featuring a professional therapist however, it’s more common for the client and therapist to communicate in realtime.
Q: What are five tips for telecounseling patients?
Here are five tips from the American Telecounseling Association (ATA) for people who are using telecounseling for the first time.
(The American Telecounseling Association (ATA) is a membership organization of over 600 telephone and Internet counselors and mental health professionals worldwide. The ATA works to promote the benefits of telecounseling and to encourage the highest possible standards for it.)
These tips are for using telecounseling as the client:
- Arrange the space where you will talk with your therapist in a way that is comfortable for you.
- Plan ahead by thinking about what you are going to talk about so you will be able to focus on the problem or issue you want to discuss.
- Focus on the problem or issue you want to discuss and use the time you have for the session to talk about the things you need to deal with.
- Remember that although you are not actually in the office with your therapist, you will probably have just as much time to talk about things you need to discuss as you did when you were in the office.
- Remember that you are working with a professional therapist who is trained to help you, so don’t be shy about asking for what you need to work on the problem.
What are five tips for telecounseling therapists?
If you are preparing for your first telecounseling session as a patient, then you might be anxious; this is normal. Since understanding a situation and what to expect can help reduce anxiety, it might be helpful to learn about how your therapist prepares for your session.
So, here are some tips from the American Telecounseling Association (ATA) for people who are using telecounseling for the first time. These tips are for using telecounseling from the therapist’s perspective:
- Have an agenda or list of topics to be covered so you don’t waste time moving from one topic to another.
- Write down a script of what you want to say, using questions that will get the client to talk about the topics you want to cover.
- Before the session, review your clients’ records for past sessions so you can pick up where you left off the last time.
- Give the client a plan for what to do between sessions.
- Make the session time as productive as possible by knowing what you want to accomplish and by knowing how your client responds to different ways of approaching problems.
Q: Why does telecounseling work as well as traditional counseling?
Research has shown that telecounseling is just as effective as traditional face-to-face counseling in treating a number of different types of problems. Telecounseling is also better than traditional counseling, and possibly medication, in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Q: Does telecounseling work for family therapy?
Telecounseling is used by a growing number of family therapists. The obvious advantage of telecounseling is that it makes it possible for family therapy to be conducted without the family having to leave home. Telecounseling can also reduce the cost of therapy.
Q: Does my therapist need to be certified in telecounseling?
The American Telecounseling Association has set out standards for the practice of telecounseling. The ATA certifies counselors after they have met the educational standards for certification and have passed a written examination.
However, the standards of the ATA are highly similar to the standards for counseling psychologists. Therefore, you don’t really need a therapist that specifically certified by the ATA, but you definitely need a state licensed therapist.
Q: What platform do I need for teletherapy?
Usually, you can use a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a wireless device such as a personal digital assistant (PDA) or a smartphone.
If required by your therapist, the teletherapy platform you use should have a video camera on the computer, so your therapist can see you.
Also, if you are using the Internet instead (or in conjunction with a phone), make sure your connection is stable.
Q: Is virtual counseling the same thing as telecounseling?
Virtual counseling used to refer to a provider of counseling or therapy making it possible for a client/patient to get counseling or therapy from him/her over the Internet. Telecounseling referred to a provider of counseling or therapy making it possible for a client/patient to meet with him/her over the telephone.
However, it’s now widely accepted that virtual counseling and telecounseling are interchangeable terms.