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Does E-Therapy Work?
To answer this question, a useful starting point is to look at why people consider therapy in the first place. Why do people go to therapy at all? This is an easy question to answer - people go to therapy because it works. It helps us change our lives. We learn to look at ourselves in a more realistic way, and start investigating our motivations and perceptions of ourselves. It can help us fill the void inside that some of us feel, and it can help us find ways to relieve emotional pain. It can also assist in finding ways to cope with a demanding and stressful lifestyle.
The efficiency of therapy has been backed up by research and if you would like some more information about this, go to www.apa.org/practice/peff.html, where you can find an article published by the American Psychological Association. This article discusses and lists different studies that have concluded that therapeutic interventions are more effective than not having any interventions.
So, we know that traditional, face-to-face counselling does work and that it can help people live a happier and more peaceful life.
Why E-Therapy?For most people traditional counselling works well and E-Therapy may not be an option for them. However, there are people who do not want to, or indeed cannot avail themselves of traditional counselling, and for an increasing number of people, E-Therapy is becoming a viable and relatively inexpensive option.
For a comprehensive discussion on reasons why people choose E-Therapy, we can do no better than quoting from the Clinical Case Study Group connected to ISHMO. ("Myths and Realities of Online Clinical Work", which can be found on: http://www.ismho.org/casestudy/myths.htm/)
"Several unique advantages exist in online work. Many have been described in the literature already, such as access for the homebound, geographically isolated, or stigmatized client who will not or cannot access treatment locally. One of our case presentations illustrated vividly not only the possibility but also the advantage of Internet-based therapeutic support. A pilot in the military, exploring sexual orientation and afraid of the potential impact of "coming out" and jeopardizing a military career, demonstrated how seeking help online was reassuring to the client in terms of confidentiality. The absence of geographic boundaries allowed the client to select a therapist who appeared to have the expertise and understanding needed in the client's particular situation.
There are numerous examples of other particular types of clients who benefit from having access to mental health services via the Internet. Hearing disabled people, celebrities, business travelers, people who are shy and introverted, concerned about stigma, or socially phobic, also might find unique advantages to seeking therapeutic activities, self-help materials, and a diversity of mental health professionals, all easily accessible online". There are times that E-Therapy is preferable over traditional, face-to-face therapy.
Now to the crunch - does E-Therapy work?There has not been enough research in this area to be able to answer this conclusively but there are several case studies which do indeed support the fact that E-Therapy is effective. E-Therapy is a new way of offering therapy; it has not been around for anywhere near as long as traditional face-to-face therapy.
The International Society of Mental Health Online (ISMHO) has existed since 1997, and has an ongoing Clinical Case Study Group that has been running for about 3 years. This group has discussed and evaluated E-Therapy interventions and outcomes in various case studies, and their experience has been that the potential for effective E-Therapy on the internet exists in large measure. Their experience is that therapy can be effectively provided online, and that people have indeed been helped by therapeutic interventions conducted by ethical therapists over the internet. See - http://www.ismho.org/casestudy/myths.htm/ More information about the latest findings in this new area of therapy can be found on the web site for The International Society of Mental Health Online ( http://www.ismho.org/ ).
So, Does E-Therapy Work - A Personal View?Yes and no, but mainly YES!
Throughout the industry and throughout the world, this is a topic of much debate. Does E-Therapy work? Is E-Therapy really therapy? What are the ethical dilemmas associated with E-Therapy? Is E-Therapy as effective as face-to-face therapy?
These are the questions that haunt the industry…. As well they should! The very existence of these questions shows that there is an expected norm growing within the dynamics of Internet psychological services. Throughout most of western society, there is an already existing or a growing establishment of ethics, standards, and general practice expected of those practitioners involved in therapy (i.e. counselling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, etc). These standards, with a few exceptions in the USA, do not necessarily apply to Internet based services. Quite simply, you are relying on what the individual says about themselves as mental health practitioners. Is this enough? Well, as the fervent debates reveal, obviously not!
There are some exceptional services that operate to the highest of degree and ethical standards-but how do we find them? As in almost every facet of life, it is up to each and every one of us, as individuals to find this service.
Wow, what a confronting scenario! Of all of the doctors in the world, of all of the counsellors in the world, of all of the social workers in the world-how do we decide which ones are good? Which ones fit in with our own very uniqueness? Can every doctor, can every counsellor, can every social worker identify with each and every individual in the world? When we are in a situation of meeting doctors or counsellors, or social workers in a face-to-face environment we have a bit more to go by (or do we?). In most normal human interactions, we have a sense -a very basic sense or instinct about the person with whom we are interacting- a sense of their realness, their congruence- the marrow of their individuality, their uniqueness.
In dealing with, or in the effort of trying to locate a mental health practitioner, these components are paramount to the foundation of a therapeutic relationship. This therapeutic relationship however needs some grounding. What is it that grounds the relationship? For me, I see this grounding deeply rooted in the mental health professionals training and qualifications. Just as you take your automobile to the appropriate mechanic for repairs-you want to take yourself to the appropriate place for whatever it is you feel that ails.
Where is the comfort found in your searchings? When seeking a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker, or a counsellor what helps you to choose the best fit? For most, there are many components-perhaps the diplomas on the wall - perhaps the memberships to professional bodies that govern ethical standards and guidelines for good practice-perhaps it is recommendations from peers or other respected health professionals.
Whatever the reason, each of these decisions is uniquely an individual one. The next stage is, do I like this person? Is this qualified health professional someone I feel that I can work with?
This is where the 'getting-to-know-you' phase is so important and where we feel our initial free contact arrangements are so useful. We will not start with formal therapy unless and until we feel happy to begin work with you and unless and until you fee happy to begin working with us.
A good way to evaluate a therapist's competence and ethical standards is to find out their level of education, and which professional bodies they belong to. The ethical standards of the professional body will indicate what ethical guidelines the therapist is following.
As mentioned, all the therapists on this site have completed post-graduate studies in counselling, and as members of CAPA, ACA and ISHMO, they follow the ethical guidelines laid out by their various professional bodies. More information on these guidelines can be found on www.capa.asn.au , www.theaca.net.au and www.ishmo.org.
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