How Distance Counseling Can Help Patients
Just a few years ago it would have been impossible to believe just how much the internet has impacted our lives. We have reached a point where the majority of Americans spend a huge portion of their time everyday online and many relationships exist almost entirely in cyberspace. As counselors, we can take advantage of the unique ability to connect with individuals around the world to help.
Distance counseling is a new means of offering counseling to those who may not have access to spiritual or mental counseling due to their location. It has existed in the form of tele-counseling for a while, where counselors would offer help to individuals, couples, or groups via the telephone. But, with the internet we are able to instantly communicate face-to-face or in text with clients, even as they go throughout their day.
As Mary Anne Hollingsworth, Ph. D., explains, internet counseling comes in two forms. There is synchronous counseling where there it little to no gap between the responses of the parties. Video chatting or Skyping allows for instant face-to-face contact without having to be in the same room. Asynchronous counseling allows for a gap between responses. Whether it be email or forums which offer a group therapy type of support, there are many possibilities for connecting and counseling those in need.
There are many benefits to online counseling aside from just offering support to those who are geographically unavailable to you. With our always connected lives, support and access can be offered around the clock. If a patient is in crisis or away for a period, you can still connect with them remotely. Online counseling also offers many opportunities to patients who have hectic schedules and may not have been able to take out the time to meet in person.
Most importantly, online counseling opens up options for patients to find the means of communication and counseling best for them. Patients are able to find the most comfortable way for them to receive counseling, making it possible to help patients open up in circumstances where they may not have in the past.
As counselors, it is our responsibility to fulfill the needs of our patients, and the internet has created entirely new channels for us to help others. While we shouldn’t hope for the day where all counseling is done remotely, distance counseling could be an especially important tool in finding the best treatment and counseling for your patient.