A recent discussion thread on a LinkedIn group covered the issue of whether or not training in online counselling is necessary. Some feel no training is needed. “After all”, they say, “I’m a competent counsellor and I know how to use email and Skype. How hard can it be? What would I need to train for?”
Working within one’s scope of practice is an important ethical consideration. What does that mean in this context?
Online counselling is a developing field. Digital communication technologies are continuously evolving. There are technological and therapeutic aspects to online work no matter what your theoretical orientation or specialization.
I believe we need training in clinical, ethical and legal issues. We need to learn the relationship skills we need to counsel online. We need to develop a high level of comfort with the technology. We need to be clear on confidentiality and privacy issues and how to address them. And we need to understand the legalities. Understanding legal issues is huge. The situation with respect to laws, jurisdiction, certification and insurance is also continuously evolving. (see CCPA’s webpage section on E-counselling http://www.ccpa-accp.ca/en/ecounselling/)
An interesting point brought up by one of the online counselling trainers in the UK is that clients behave differently online. In part, she was referring to disinhibition effects, how anonymity can lead to deeper disclosure. And then there’s video and text and chat – each modality may bring out different behaviour. If clients behave differently online don’t we too? What about our “online persona”? Training can provide an opportunity to understand our own online actions and reactions, and learn skills for managing our online behaviour.
Lots to learn!
Where can you find the training? There are courses offered in Canada, USA and the UK. Probably in other countries as well but these are the ones with which I am most familiar. The International Society for Mental Health Online has a listing of training courses. https://www.ismho.org/online_therapy_training.asp
In Canada, Therapy Online offers a range of training opportunities for counsellors in cybercounselling. All online courses are offered in collaboration with the University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. You can check it out here http://www.therapyonline.ca/cybercounselling/
Dawn Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca/
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA