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Myth 1: “Online therapy” just isn’t possible

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    March 21, 2014

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    online therapy, psychological services, clinical psychologist

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A matter of security

The idea that the internet does not offer the security required to ensure verification of client identity or guaranteed privacy, makes some believe that online therapy is a non-starter.

At SilverCloud, our experience suggests that this is simply not the case, given the sophistication of modern online security protocols, digital signatures, encryption, and other safeguards. Applied diligently, today’s technology offers sufficient levels of security to meet, and surpass, any and all expectations. Clinicians and other online therapy service providers should select programme solutions from trusted partners able to provide tested and verified security precautions.

Individuals considering online therapy should also consider their personal privacy. Kendra Cherry, author of the Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition), offers a useful list of steps to take to keep your personal information confidential.

Advantages in flexible communications

Another objection to online therapy is that it cannot deliver the necessary levels of interaction needed to provide useful support.

Traditional face-to-face therapeutic interactions require visible interaction, Flexibletalking and real-time response. Online therapy first moved away from these three basic premises. The International Society for Mental Health Online’s (ISMHO) Clinical Case Study Group posit that textual online interactions offer unique ‘elasticity of communication’, with:

  • location and time flexibility
  • a choice in online communication channels

Of course, since the ISMHO published its report, online technology has moved swiftly forward. Modern online technologies do now offer real-time responsive communication through synchronous communication and video. Video also delivers visible interaction and recognition of social signalling, and certainly “talking”!

It should be noted however that, rather than minimising the therapeutic experience, evidence regarding even text-based therapeutic online relationships collected by the ISMHO points out;

“…clients have reported self-perception of increased autonomy, improvement in decision-making and interpersonal relationships, and more taking of responsibility for self-help and interpersonal engagement. Other benefits included such additional things as improved online relational skills, within groups and individual e-mails.” Myths and realities of online clinical work, ISMHO

Case study

An ISMHO case study illustrates some of the advantages offered by easy access to internet-based therapeutic support for the homebound, geographically isolated, or stigmatized client:

“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.“ Myths and realities of online clinical work, ISMHO

Myth 1 busted?

So, at Silvercloud we agree with the findings of the IMSHO Clinical Case Study Group and believe that, not only is online therapy possible, but it can also deliver some unique benefits. Online clinical work has been demonstrated to have true value and should sit alongside face-to-face therapy as a choice for clients seeking guidance towards improved health and wellness.

‘Busting the myths of online clinical work’ is a new blog series based on ‘Myths & Realities of Online Clinical Work’; a 3rd-Year Report from the International Society for Mental Health Online’s (ISMHO) Clinical Case Study Group.

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