Last week I was interviewed by the Stars and Stripes regarding online counseling and the article entitled Tricare Programs Offer Online Counseling posted today. Some of you may know that Tricare is offering online services now with a pilot program called TRIAP in which military and their family members can obtain assistance online via webcam. The military has also launched services through Tricare using a platform developed by American Well for behavioral telehealth services including the ability to prescribe.
Just a few weeks ago, the EAP Digest published an article about online counseling having finally crossed the chasm, suggesting that after a decade or so, the concept of online counseling is not really such a foreign idea. The article refers to an EAP company in Canada that facilitated over 10,000 email cases in 2008. The same is true for EAPs in other parts of the world.
And most recently, a new study that will appear in the well-respected medical journal, Lancet, is indicating that online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy. In fact, this study has been tweeted and retweeted countless times on twitter. In this same week results of another study from New South Wales, St. Vincent’s Hospital utilizing online therapy as an intervention for social anxiety disorder show similar efficacy. People seem to be very receptive to the idea that online therapy can be helpful to some individuals.
When I first started talking about online counseling as a real and viable option for people the majority of professionals were resistant, even hostile about the idea. Now I am seeing a shift. Perhaps it is because technology has become such a part of our social fabric that resistance is futile, or maybe there is a shift in the profession’s consciousness about thinking through new ways to reach out. I would love to hear feedback about existing concerns regarding the provision of online counseling. I have said all along that online counseling will not replace face-to-face counseling. Online counseling offers another way to deliver interventions. And I was a decade early when I said in 1999 that online therapy would become mainstream. Has the time come?
DeeAnna Merz-Nagel is a clinical counselor, teacher, workshop presenter, sat on the ACA Cyber Technology Taskforce, and is co-founder of the Online Therapy Institute