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Analysis of Online Therapy Sites
Since time in memorial human beings have been known to suffer from psychological problems which are caused by stress related stimuli. Man has developed methods of healing and solving the psychological problems through therapy. In lay mans language therapy is a process where one undergoes a particular procedure to cure psychological problems. This sort of procedure is also called psychological therapy or psychotherapy. In most cases psychotherapy involves counseling which can be administered from an individual to the affected person or in form of group discussions. Group discussion therapy session involve the affected people sharing their experiences with the psychological problem and their struggle in healing from the problems. These discussions (known as therapy sessions) are mostly lead and guided by a qualified psychologist or counselor. Therapy sessions are mostly done in a room where all the participants are present. With development in information technology and internet now therapy sessions can be conducted through the internet where all the participants discuss their issues online which are done in online therapy sites. This paper will analyze online therapy sites looking at their pros and cons by looking and several such sites.
Site 1: Ask the Internet Therapist
This is an online therapy site which provides mental health online counseling. This site was registered as a company in 1998. It provide alternative counseling though telephone, chat, email and audio visual counseling mediums. They claim to be reliable, safe, and private. In the site they encourage visitors by showing them that they have qualified staff in therapy and mental health in areas like; psychiatry, etherapy, psychology, professional coaching, career development, family therapy, chiropractic medicine, family medicine, naturopathic medicine, marriage counseling, and substance abuse counseling, among others.
In this web site one can request for hypnosis tapes, CDs, MP3s and videos for hypnotherapy or even get online hypnotherapy. One can talk with the medical staff of the site on any health issue since the company has chiropractors, nurses, nutritionists, physicians, and massage therapists which can provide holistic therapy in all medical fields with regard to psychological issues or problems. They also have veterinarian online therapy which is given by qualified personnel. The most important part of this online therapy site is online therapy chat, online therapy emailing, and online therapy video messaging. One can chat through the above methods with the counseling staff for therapy. In addition the site has posted articles on psychotherapy in their site so that one can download them for use.
Site 2: Sunrise Counseling
This is another online therapy site with its uniqueness from the rest which offers online therapy and counseling. In the home page of the site it gives rhetoric questions seeking to help those who feel like no one cares for them, those who don't have anyone to listen to them, those who are felling confused, sad, lonely, angry, or frustrated to give them online counseling and help. The site asserts to have qualified therapist to who help people to indentify issues disturbing them and help them through a thinking process to identify the solutions. The site has a focus in the following psychological related problems; relationships, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, addictions, loss of direction, bereavement, effects of abuse, and loneliness among others.
This site provides a good introduction to online therapy by giving its definition and what is entailed in it. This prepares the viewer in understanding the concept of online therapy. Sunrise Counseling has counseling application form which should be filled by anyone seeking psychotherapy from this site. In the application form one writes personal identification details, the time he or she wishes to receive the online therapy, the method of receiving the therapy (e.g. email, chat, etc), a brief explanation as to why one wishes to get counseling, history on previous counseling, and any other relevant comment one could have. Apart from the application form there is another form on life history where one give a short description of his or her life history so that it can help the therapist in effective administration of the therapy. The site has provided link for emergency cases so the counselors can act fast in emergency issues.
In terms of qualification, the site has provided the qualification of the main therapist in Sunrise Counseling. She has an educational background in social work with a Master Degree in the subject and she has done several graduate applied psychology courses. The main therapist is registered as a member of the Ontario College of Social Workers, Crisis Intervention Counselors for the First Nations & Inuit Health Branch, Ontario Region of the Mental Health Crisis Intervention Counseling Program and International Society for Mental Health Online. Nothing is said on academic qualifications of the other personnel of the company.
This site provide other services like self help quizzes to determine ones level of psychological disturbance, self-help resources with psychotherapeutic materials, and a survey on the extend of psychological disturbance in the US. In addition it has vividly shown the client's rights for those who use the services offered therein. Links on other online therapy site are provided.
Site 3: Online Intergroup - Alcoholic anonymous
This is another unique online therapy site with a specific clientele of alcoholics or alcohol abusers. This is a simple website for people suffering from alcohol abuse and alcoholism where they meet online and discuss on their challenges and strangles in their endeavors of quitting drinking. Online Intergroup provides an introduction of Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) showing its origin and its therapeutic objectives.
The site considers the diversity of language so it has links with other languages like Françoise, Portuguese and many others. In this site one can get help of in solving drinking problem through sending ones email with a small not on the issue to the site administrators who help in linking the patient with Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) online meetings. These meetings are online where affected people meet and chat online. It provides a calendar of various AA meetings in the world where one can go and accesses the services in person. The AA meetings are lead by one of the company's staff with experience in alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
The Clinical Social Work Federation has a strong criticism on online therapy sites. This association is concerned in confidentiality in the sites asserting that a patient's personal information can be viewed by many. They also show how the therapist lacks significant historical background of the patient so he or she might administer wrong or ineffective therapy. The other issue is that there is no assurance that the presented information from both the therapist and the patient online is accurate.
This association and other alike association stick that the traditional way of administering therapy (in person therapy) are the best and most efficient and the online therapy are unprofessional , ethical and inefficient.
Personally I don't think online therapy is as bad as said by some associations. Since internet is a tool that has made communication easy and accessible almost every where and psychological problems can affect a person any time so this site are easily accessible and can provide help at emergency situations. This can play an important role in counseling a person at emergency cases unlike in person therapy where one has to go in person for a therapy.
Never the less it is true that there are some questions on the use of online therapy. First is the issue of confidentiality is true since one is not sure on how confidential the information he or she gives to the sites is kept. The other issue is on the credibility of the professionals providing the therapeutic services. One can not determine for sure the qualification of the therapist in these sites. Anyone can pose as a therapist in such cases thus jeopardizing the psychological health of patient in need.