VISTAS Online is an innovative publication produced for ACA by Dr. Garry R. Walz and Dr. Jeanne C. Bleuer of Counseling Outfitters, LLC. Its purpose is to provide a means of capturing the ideas, information and experiences generated by the annual ACA Conference and selected ACA Division Conferences. Papers on a program or practice that has been validated through research or experience may also be submitted. This digital collection of peer-reviewed articles is authored by counselors, for counselors. VISTAS Online contains the full text of over 900 proprietary counseling articles published from 2004 to 2017.
Providing Counseling Online: Because We Can, Should We?
Pamela K. S. Patrick
The technology revolution has dramatically expanded the capacity for person-to-person communication than spans time zones, geographic location, convenience, and time gaps between sending and receiving messages. At the same time, the counseling professions have ventured into the computer mediated world of online counseling leveraging the potential to extend access to counseling services. Foundational to the traditional model of the counseling process, however, is the face to face encounter between client and counselor. How can this qualitative element of human interaction be duplicated in a virtual environment? While the real time personal meeting that has represented an unquestioned forum in which to conduct counseling has not been replaced by online counseling, issues have been identified that speak to controversies about the efficacy of online counseling as a helping process and legitimate form of providing mental health services.
As online technologies have facilitated increased communication and work management, they simultaneously have led to a redefinition of counseling, and how counseling can be practiced, in ways not imagined a generation ago. To understand the appeal of online counseling, it is essential that counselors understand client characteristics of those who are most likely to use online counseling services; have a solid understanding of the appealing qualities of computer mediated counseling; be able to identify the core issues that must be carefully evaluated by counselors contemplating providing online counseling services; and finally, carefully consider the issues of access to online counseling by underserved cultural and ethnic populations. A final question that each counselor is challenged to consider as these complex issues are evaluated is: “Because we ‘can’ offer counseling online, should we?”