Counselors’ attitudes and use of Online Counseling services vary widely depending on the modality in question. In my own research, I investigated a sample of 854 mental health professionals who were solicited by being on a mailing list for a national counseling organization that claims 50,000 members.
Participants were asked to report their use, colleague use, and client use of the four distance counseling modalities. Reportedly, telephone counseling was most widely used with 73.8% (n=630) of participants stating they have used the medium for counseling, 73.8% (n=630) stating they knew counselors who have used the medium, and 65.0% (n=555) stating they knew clients who have used the medium. Email counseling was second with 28.1% (n=240), 34.4% (n=294), and 30.6% (n=261) respectively. Text- chat was third with 5.6% (n=48), 12.6% (n=108), and 10.7% (n=91) respectively. Videoconference was found to be least utilized with 1.2% (n=10), 8.9% (n=76), and 4.9% (n=42) respectively.
Next, participants were asked to report their attitude toward the four distance counseling modalities. Responses were more negative than positive. Reportedly, while 24.7% (n=221) stated they had a “very positive” or “positive” attitude toward email counseling, 43.5% (n=459) responded that they had a “negative” or “very negative attitude.” Videoconference counseling was similar, with 28.7% (n=245) stating they felt positively, and 34.9% (n=298) negatively. Attitudes toward text-chat counseling was the most severely negative. Only 14.0% (n=120) reporting positive attitudes and 65.5% (n=559) reporting negative ones. In contrast, 49.2% (n=420) of participants reported positive attitudes toward telephone counseling, and only 19.3% (n=165) reported negative attitudes. This being said, high percentages stated they felt “neutral” toward the mediums. Specifically, 20.1% (n=172) reported a neutral attitude for email, 34.5% (n=295) for videoconference, 18.6% (n=159) for text-chat, and 30.1% (n=257) for telephone.
Conselor Attitudes and Use of Online Therapy Conclusion
Even if the number of counselors providing Online Counseling is, at this point, only a strong minority, the tide is likely to strengthen. It is possible the rise of Online Counseling will be similar to the unprecedented growth distance education has seen in recent years. For many universities across the US, distance learning programs—programs that were established to accommodate initially a small minority of students—now often more than double residential attendance. These numbers tell us that for the majority of students the advantages of distance education have outweighed the disadvantages. This may soon be the case with mental health provision.