In general, there are two major methods of providing online counseling; they are (1)telephone counseling, and (2) online counseling. The dividing line between telephone and online counseling provision, though it seems like a clear one, is actually blurring more all the time.

For example, though videoconference is often seen as an Internet technology, a growing number of telephones are being equipped with video capabilities. In addition, telephones — especially mobile phones — possess text-messaging and email abilities, two forms of communication that are generally understood as being “Internet only,” but now exist in many people’s pockets at all times.

On the other hand, the Internet is expanding in its abilities to accommodate two-way audio communication that replicates the telephone experience. Currently, there are several companies that provide Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), or “Internet phone” services to the public, the most widely known being two companies called Vonage and Lingo.

These exceptions to the rule aside, we will look at both the telephone and the Internet in terms of their most common functions.

Online Counseling Methods

To summarize (and simplify), the following figure outlines telephone and Internet communication methods:

  1. Telephone counseling
  2. Online counseling
  3. a. Email counseling
    b. Online text-chat counseling
    c. Videoconference counseling

Clear as Mud? Take a closer look at each method by clicking the links above.

1 Rosenfield, M. (2003). Telephone counseling and psychotherapy in practice. In S. Goss, K. Anthony (Eds.), Technology in counseling and psychotherapy: A practitioner’s guide (pp. 93- 108), Great Britain: Palgrave Macmillan.

2 Nichelson, D. (1998). Telehealth and the evolving health care system: Strategic opportunities for professional psychology. Professional psychology: Research and practice, 29, 527-535.

3 Slavich, S. (2003). The status of online mental health services. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Wichita State University. Wichita.

4 Lester, D., & Brockopp, G. (ed.) (2002). Crisis intervention and counseling by telephone, Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas

5 Boucher, J., Pronk, N., & Gahling, E. (2003, Fall). Telephone based lifestyle counseling.    Diabetes Spectrum, 13(4), 190; Magaletta, P., Fagan, T., & Peyrot, M. (2000, October).     Telehealth in the federal bureau of prisons: inmates’ perceptions. Professional Psychology:     Research and Practice, 31(5), 497-502; Cruz, B. R., SanMartin, A. H., Guitierrez, B. L. N.,

Farias, M. V., & Mora, I. S. (2001, Spring). Identifying young people’s guidance needs through     telephone counseling. Adolescence, 36(141); Fina, A. L. (1986). The effectiveness of a     telephone counseling service for discipline problems. Dissertation Abstracts, Dissertation     Abstracts International, 47(25b), 2160; Lynch, D. J., Tamburrino, M., & Nagel, R. (1997,  March). Telephone counseling for patients with minor depression: Preliminary findings in a     family practice setting. Journal of Family Practice, 44(3), 293-299; Henderson, C.W. (2000, March 18). Telephone counseling more effective than print media. Women’s Health Weekly  (2002, September). Internet paging system helps improve adherence. Aids Alert  [Review of Twelve week outcome of a cue-controlled paging system to increase ART adherence.

6   Lynch, Tamburrino, (1997); Rosenfield, M., & Smillie, E. (1998, February). Group counselling by telephone. British Journal of Guidance & Counseling, 26(1), 11; Thiesen, N., LaMattina, F., & McKinley, D. (2005, October). Counselors turned coach tell all. Workshop at the American Association of Christian Counselors Take Me to the Cross World Conference, Nashville.

7   Rosenfield, (2003), p. 93.