We all know that working in person with a qualified counseling professional can offer help in a variety of areas. But is it possible to get the same results from that computer sitting there on your desk?
The answer, for a wide variety of issues, is a very definite "yes." "Cybercounseling," as it is commonly known, has been around for a number of years now and has helped tens of thousands of people deal with a variety of common problems. In fact, since 1999, the members of the American Counseling Association, the nation's largest organization of counseling professionals, have adhered to a set of ethical standards specifically created to guide counselors providing counseling via the Internet.
Those standards are also a good guide for consumers to use when seeking online counseling. They require the counselor, for example, to provide complete and honest information about qualifications and services. It should be clearly presented as to what degrees are held, by whom the counselor is licensed or certified, to what professional organizations the counselor belongs, and whether services being offered are in areas in which the counselor specializes and has had experience and training.
When a counseling site doesn't clearly offer such information, be wary. It's too easy for anyone to create a Web site and offer misleading or false information. Look for professional credentials and affiliations that can be verified before you become involved.
Also pay attention to privacy issues. In counseling situations you'll share sensitive personal information. Check that it's being sent in a secure manner and that the appropriate people at the other end will only see it. Remember to also monitor your own computer since information you provide in an e-mail may be visible to others using your computer.
Online counseling today is effective, convenient and worth checking out. And while it's not right for every person or problem, an online professional counselor following the ACA ethical standards will tell you early on if you would be better off seeking help in other ways.
The bottom line is that while you want to carefully check the validity of any counseling service being offered online, it is a valuable way to get help with a number of issues. And getting needed help is what really matters.
"The Counseling Corner" is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nation's largest organization of counseling professionals. Learn more at www.counseling.org .