The Beginning of Online Counseling: Support Groups

What is the bridge between ELIZA (the counseling computer program) and Online Counseling services today? When did Online Counseling, as we understand it, originate?

We have mentioned that telephone counseling began in the 1950’s with the Samaritans crisis counseling group. Online counseling, of course, began years after that, but sooner than you might think. Some form of online Counseling has been present since the beginning of consumer Internet use—that is, since the 1980s. Dedicated to a variety of emotional and physical ailments (e.g., depression, grief, cancer, etc.), online forums—though a technology called Usenet (developed at Duke University in 1979)—were an early method for individuals to reach others literally across the world. These forums became authentic support groups, one of the most popular being http://alt.support.depression.21 It was a solid beginning for Online Counseling, but it took over 10 years before anyone attempted providing professional services.


21 Grohol, J. (2004). A historical perspective, In R. Kraus, J. Zack, G. Strickler (Eds). Online counseling: A handbook for mental health professionals, USA: Elsevier Academic Press; Anthony, K. (2003). The use and role of technology in counselling and psychotherapy. In S. Goss, K. Anthony (Eds.), Technology in counseling and psychotherapy: A practitioner’s guide, Great Britain: Palgrave Macmillan.