The Legal and Ethical Issues of Online Therapy

There are many websites which now offer online therapy. There are a lot of questions about the validity of such websites and the prospect of how these sites are operated as well as the professionals who are working at them as there are many legal and ethical dilemmas which present themselves when looking at the idea of online therapy. Three websites that will be discussed and looked at further are Online Counselor Service (www.

onlinecounselorservice. com), Online Counseling (www. etherapistsonline. com), and Serenity Online Therapy (www. serenityonlinetherapy. com). Online Counselor Service provides 24 hour online therapy services and promotes “your pathway to personal freedom. ” This site promotes a variety of services including therapy for any type of problem that one could imagine ranging from HIV/AIDs counseling to Christian counseling.

The site offers therapy through email, instant chat or PC to PC voice chat services. This site is run by one person. Her name is Faith Moyo who is an accredited counselor and personal development coach and mentor. For individuals the rates are that for one email it starts at $15, for one instant message session it starts at $25 and for one PC to PC voice chat it is starts at $45.

Faith Moyo has her educational background and qualifications as follows: Psychology, Advanced Graduate Diploma in Counseling, Advanced Graduate Diploma in Addiction Counseling, Advanced Diploma in Child Psychology, Certificate in Mentoring, Certificate in Continuing Professional Development, and Personal Development Coach Training (“focusing on Influencing other people, Building Self esteem and confidence, Motivation, Refraining techniques, Developing a positive mental attitude, Building much stronger relationships”).

She also is a member of many professional memberships including CCC-Counseling Code of Conduct, PPS-Psychologist Protection Society, ISMHO-International Society for Mental Health Online, OTI-Online Therapy Institute, BHMA-British Holistic Medical Association and the IC-Institute of Counseling. The counselor claims that she upholds the “highest ethical standards. ” The counselor on the site promotes that she will hold all confidentiality unless other professional recommendations are needed.

A second site for online counseling services that was easy to find was www. etherapistsonline. com. This site offers private online chat, phone counseling and email sessions. This site has an online certified psychiatrist Dr H Edie Park, MD with who will provide online consultations with psychiatrists. The site also hosts a social networking site for ongoing support. The site boasts that it has a wider range of experience as they have a broader employee base. This site directs one to a separate site in order to “find a therapist” based on needs.

This site claims to offer full HIPPA privacy standards which is reassuring to many. The president of this site is Judy Gifford who has a lengthy and impressive list of credentials and prior work experience. The site also has professionals from a variety of other fields including mental health professionals from a variety of fields. The site does not offer a list of their professionals however they will help link one to the professional that is right for him. This way they are not advertising for one professional above another.

The site also does not tell the costs up front but only states that things are affordable. It is questionable how this site is run as so much information is unavailable to one who is trying to get basic knowledge. A third site was Serenity Online Therapy, located at www. serenityonlinetherapy. com. This site is run again by one private individual, Carl Benedict. He is a LCPC (licensed clinical professional counselor). He offers a variety of therapy programs and even has questionnaires for one who is interested in therapy to fill out.

He has an extended work history and had worked as a counselor in both a mental health clinic and a hospital for 12 years. He claims to one to lead one through self discovery using the internet as a tool. The claims are that he will help you come to your own conclusions and decisions. His claim seems to be very ethical in the limitations of dealing with counseling online. To keep the site safe and secure the site boasts that they even use encryption protocols meaning that it would be harder to hack into than most sites. Mr.

Benedict offers many services including chat therapy, email counseling or a combination of the two. Both email counseling and chat therapy start at $50. Again both require that the client fill out the one time questionnaire to link the clinician to crucial background information. Online counseling can pose many threats and problems. First of all there are the security issues and the fact that at times it would be possible for the system to not be as secure as it might seem. There are also the ethical standards that are adhered to in this environment.

There is no way for the clinician to follow up with the client’s former mental health professionals and therefore this could potentially pose a lot of problems for those who have personality disorders as the clients with personality disorders could have a hard time in admitting to the truth whether or not they believed that they were telling the truth. The online therapy module would work best for those who are able to simply have basic needs and someone to just express their feelings to as the idea of providing more intensive therapy for more intensive issues seems impractical in a sense.

In my opinion there are both advantages and disadvantages to the world of online therapy. Some of the advantages are that there is a feeling of being anonymous and the world of online therapy opens up a door for those who are embarrassed to seek out help to get that needed help from the privacy of their own home. Another advantage is that one would be able to share their most intimate details of the problems and feelings as they would not have to look at a person and it is stereotypically easier for someone to feel more comfortable sharing something when they know that they are not going to be judged in any manner.

A third advantage is that the cost of the online services was reasonable and seems to be much less than traditional therapy or counseling so it makes the services more affordable as well. Some of the disadvantages are that the client is not forced to actually work through issues or have to follow through with the clinician. Another disadvantage is that there is no way to follow up for the truth or basic follow up of issues and trying to be able to monitor a client.

The ethical role of some of the sites is questionable and could be a disadvantage. There was the site that offered a psychiatrist and the idea of someone prescribing psychotropic medications without physically monitoring the client seems to be an unwise practice as some drug abusers are very good at being manipulative and getting what they want and if they had enough money then they would potentially be able to get a wide range of medications.

Another issue is the issue that online therapy is not recognized by insurance companies that I could find so I would think that it would cut off the majority of the population that has health insurance and not a significant income. I also think that fear of privacy and the safety and security of personal information could be a problem.