Psychology in the 21st century. Online counseling – Why not?

In psychology, physical distance between the counselor and the client is not a new idea. Freud had tons of letter conversations, for instance with Jung they “held” supervision via mail (we can actually see that in the movie Dangerous Method). Apart from this e-counseling (when the counselor and his client are connected through the Internet, chatting or Skype) is the result of the past 10 years’ technical development and the emerging culture of Internet usage. What should we think of this?

The beginning of the 21st century is most definitely the first overwhelming step in our digital life: we have an online identity, online relationships; our needs are constantly fulfilled by online applications. The information superhighway connects people’s homes both in their private and professional lives. There are permanent studies and debates on the effects of information society on human psyche. Are we becoming more and more isolated in the online space or it is the opposite: are we more and more connected? Do we have less friends or more? Is this an opportunity to hide your personality or a possibility of self-expression? What are the advantages and disadvantages? These are important questions; however instead of prompt answers we may rather ask the question of how we can use this incredible potential?

So, we have this amazing communicational resource, why should we not use it in psychology? The right question should be, how we can use it in psychology?

Online counseling is not at all less professional than counseling in person, it is different. Like several psychological approaches are different, online counseling is different from its personal form, but basically they are the same. The online psychologist needs to create rapport and therapeutic relationship in the online space and he needs to be capable of performing the online empathy, congruency and unconditional positive regard. He has lots of techniques which are equally applied in personal counseling: he reflect the client’s emotions, helps the client to overcome his problems with creative solutions, gives information, confronts, supports. The work of that counselor who has profound diagnostic information, disposes a proper treatment plan, appoints realistic therapeutic goals and is aware of the limits of online therapy is equally effective.

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