Counseling Student Perceptions of Online Therapy

Students are a hard sell. One recent study surveyed attitudes of online and FTF counseling among undergraduate students. Results found FTF services were regarded more highly, though online services were not viewed negatively. In addition, positive regard toward online counseling was associated with participants’ familiarity with email. In discussion, the authors wrote, “Ideas for improving attitudes toward online counseling include showing prospective clients written online counseling dialogues and testing the utility of marketing materials aimed at documenting the benefits of this helping service.”44

A later study surveyed 378 masters of social work (MSW) students after showing Online Counseling dialogues (as recommended by the study above). It was found that students who believed online counseling could be ethical had strong attitudes in support of the provision. However, overall attitudes were negative, with 52.1% agreeing that “counseling and therapy cannot be effectively done online.” Only 3.2% agreed that online counseling is as effective as in-person psychotherapy. In discussion, the researcher writes:

…students have widely differing opinions about e-therapy. It is important to ask what these attitudes are based on. It is possible that students have discussed the issues in classes, read the literature, and reached their own conclusions. This, however, does not appear to be the case, as very few students had ever even seen an etherapy website.45

44 Rochlen, A. B., Beretvas, S. N., & Zack, J. S. (2004, July). The online and face-to-face counseling attitudes scales: A validation study. Measurement of Evaluation in Counseling and

Development, 37, 95-111. (p. 108).

45 Finn, J. (2002, Fall). MSW student perceptions of the efficacy and ethics of Internet-based therapy. Journal of Social Work Education, 38(3). (p. 412)