FAQs About Online Counseling and Telemental Health

What is online counseling?

Online counseling or telemental health refers to the use of technology to deliver counseling services. What we now refer to as a "landline" has been utilized for years in both the mental health and medical world. The emergence of new technologies like the mobile phone, internet, email, videochat, videoconferencing, online chat and texting have led to the creation of new ways for therapist and client to interact. Recently dubbed "telemental health", this new way of interacting opens the door to effective and more convenient ways for client and counselor to work together.

Is telemental health effective?

Research studies have demonstrated for decades that counseling services provided via telephone are equivalent on measures including client satisfaction, outcome and drop-out rate to counseling services provided in-person for a variety of clinical populations (Bischoff, 2004; Gater, 2005; Folen, 2001; Marineau, 2007; Witmans, 2008).

  • Effective for those struggling with multiple sclerosis ( Mohr et al., 2000)

  • Mild depression (Lynch, Tamburrino, & Nagel, 1997; Hunkeler et al., 2000)

  • Anxiety (Dietrich et al., 2004; Hunkeler et al., 2006; Simon, Ludman, Tutty, Operskalski, & Korff, 2004)

  • Tobacco smokers (Orleans et al., 1991)

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly well suited to being used in telemental health settings

  • Cardiac patients respond well to psychoeducational counseling via phone (Glueckauf and Lustria, 2008)

Does online counseling work for everyone?
  • Those who have problems focusing or paying attention may do better with videoconferencing than phone sessions

  • Greatly distressed persons should choose in-person counseling (Reese, 2001)

  • Shy individuals may be less self conscious on the phone rather than on video conference

  • Persons with chronic pain have not demonstrated positive gains in telephone sessions

  • Women with breast cancer have shown inconsistent results with CBT phone sessions (Pinto and Associates, 2005)

  • Clients who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with technology should choose in-office sessions

 

What are my choices for type of online, telemental health session?

Your choices include videosessions, email, text or phone.  You choose the type of session you want when you schedule your appointment using the online scheduler. 

 

  • Online Video requires both therapist and client to be in front of their computer monitor or tablet/pad screen.  We will talk while viewing one another on the screen.  Should service be interrupted, telephone would be used for backup.

  • Phone sessions can occur either by landline or cell phone. While landlines are more secure and generally more reliable, many people today use a cell number as their primary phone. Therapist and client need to let one another know which type of phone service is being used in case of service issues such as low signal strength, dropped calls, and loss of battery life.  An alternate number should always be given at the outset of each call in case of a problem.

  • Online Chat is scheduled when you want to use a secure, encrypted written chat method to communicate using a computer keyboard.  Therapist and client both sit in front of their computer taking turns communicating solely by typing rather than speaking. This may be a good option for someone who is shy or who may be self conscious about being seen in their surroundings.  It may not be a good option for someone who is a poor speller or has difficulty reading.

 

Always plan to be in a quiet and private space where you will be uninterrupted no matter which type of appointment you schedule. Barking dogs, doorbells , crying children or other phones ringing interrupt the flow of the session and decreases effectiveness.