Is online counselling a 9-day wonder?
Today individuals are able to get the confidential help they need for mild mental health cases without leaving their home. The Internet has revolutionised many things including mental health consultations such as depression.
With online counselling, privacy is a main stumbling block. A counsellor`s therapy room will be set up to be private whereas a session in the home environment is not. There are mental health situations that demand visiting a counsellor. This places a demand of time and expense on the individual for each session. It can be that a therapist is unaware of this demand on the client.
This expense can cause an individual to choose to connect and seek information from the wide world web. In seeking this information they will connect and join websites for counsellors around the world. Many will offer the services and terms they need from anywhere.
Online Counselling through a Camera Lens?
Through video conferencing counsellors can be contacted and a session started as if they were in the same room. This method of covenient e-counselling is a developing trend.
It is beneficial for individuals affected by a range of mental health problems. Yet, it presents a confidential problem unless the counsellor gives correct guidance. How does the client know they should have face-to-face counselling session?
A successful form of video conferencing works for a relationship therapy session.
Today people have busy lives with hardly a moment to spare. Finding a time when they can visit a counsellor together may be impractical. A Video Counselling Therapy policy could be used in this situation.
One partner could be in an office or hotel room the other with the counsellor in their confidential therapy rooms. Without this video conferencing, this couple may feel their marriage has failed and reach for divorce. There is support they get can coming from anywhere in the world, as if it were between clients that were sat next to each other. They are able to talk things through backed by a sympathetic intermediary in the form of a counsellor.
Using the online counselling function is a completely similar experience to traditional confidential face-to-face sessions.
Methods which therapists are starting to use include Video, emails, telephone calls and live-chat.
The policy for an online counselling session can help clients to focus on what is wrong when they are in familiar settings, which reduces their anxiety.
This is why the privacy of a counsellor therapy rooms must be a welcoming environment that aids relaxation.
In relationship counselling,with both parties seeking to prove who’s right, often presents a stumbling block. This can lead to silence with no conversation started. This can be sometimes because both parties are unfamiliar with video counselling.
It is the skills of the therapist in using modern e-counselling which can assist the rebuilding of emotional closeness. This skill encourages honest, open communication all over again.
Even if work or other commitments keep the parties apart.
Online Counselling using Live-Chat
Clients have reported through surveys, of the growing popularity of convenient Internet based online counselling. Popular because of their hectic lifestyles.
Although not the same as pure online counselling where the conversation is in real time some organisations offer live chat.
Here a client has an on-screen blank message board for the session, with usually a live-chat button at the bottom of their screen.
Clicking that button puts them in line to communicate with the next available counsellor who could be from anywhere. This is more suited to customer services than counselling.
A counsellor will announce their availability through a text message offering support.
The client then has to reply by summarising their feelings in a text format. If the client feels that this is not sufficient for their needs they can ask for a client appointment. They are then transferred to an appointment clerk who will set the time and date for them to visit the practice.
This service is in its infancy. Whether it will grow is not known certainly at the moment it is not seen as a good alternative. These text based sessions are really
reliant on self-diagnosis. Not only is this not effective it can also be extremely dangerous.
Online Counselling as an App
It is true that modern technology can be effective in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. But, it must be remembered the impact they have on the clients day-to-day living.
Some people as stated before, like to stay at home. However, they do not want to face a counsellor at the early stages as most do not recognise the help they need.
When the on-set of mental illness can be started as an increase and duration of headaches.
So, there is a need for an intermediate step. That came about with the development of Internet apps for the Apple and Android smart phones. By using these apps and monitoring the results by the client can give the therapist some valuable information.
Simple apps can be used to remind a client to take their depression medication at certain times of the day. Others ring an alarm if the person strays outside of their home, alerting maybe their carer that all is not well. Advances have been made over and above these simple devices.
However, most apps including those recommended by the NHS in the UK are clinically unproven and ineffective. That has not stopped the growth and use of these apps on mobile devices. Many mental health apps and online programmes lack an underlying evidence base. They have no scientific study as their foundation and credibility.
Clients can place too much dependence on the results shown. If it is on their smart phones it must be correct. Causing them to indulge in self-assessment when they need to contact a professional for a diagnosis.
If the result for say depression is negative the enquirer could experience a buildup of anxiety. This can increase the illness through anxiety. When a simple talk with a therapist could reduce the anxiety before it could develop.
These apps are appearing frequently for both smart phones and computers. It is getting to be a big market. Apps are appearing at an alarming rate with little or no evaluation. They come out with shiny images and marketing speak geared to sell the app not help the patient.
Most applications can be downloaded free of charge. However, just like online games some invite the user to go to the next stage. This can promise greater diagnosis and detail for a fee. Where is the record of a pilot study tied with a retrospective observational study?
The trouble is these apps can be reverse engineered so a new one can be developed quickly. As little as about 24-hours later with even more bells and whistles.
Patient lists are growing ever larger for mental health diagnosis and treatment. This is feeding the demand for these online nine-day wonders.
The reliance on these applications is causing concern in the health industry.
Simon Leigh, a health economist at the University of Liverpool, said “If you
go through the process of downloading and using an app and there are no benefits,
it can compound your anxiety about your mental health problems.”
And that is one of the dangers. People with minor mental health problems use an app and contact their health practitioner in the belief that they are destined to be sanctioned.
Apps can be helpful they can act as triage for less serious problems. But it is essential that further research is conducted, to ensure the apps are robust and not just toys.