Social Stigma and Online Counseling
Regarding social stigma, Online Counseling assures clients two things. One, a client will not encounter their counselor in public as they might if they were seeing a local counselor. Two, clients will not risk meeting persons from the community in the counselor’s waiting room, or be herwise seen entering a counselor’s office. Therefore, Online Counseling may be effective in eliminating the social stigma of receiving counseling. To provide an example, one study investigating the use of phone counseling services by Arab Israeli callers found the stigma-free medium “may be a culturally appropriate modality of providing helping services to people who conventionally underutilize other forms of professional mental health intervention.”56
Social stigma may prevent many from acquiring necessary counseling services.
Here in the US, the University of Wisconsin has developed a counseling center website that allows counselors to be contacted by email. Moreover, George Mason University provides counseling to students by videoconference, and many other schools provide online information on pertinent issues, as well as advice columns—many operating with the hope they “will get them [students] over the threshold and bring them in.”57
56 Al-Krenawi, A., Graham, J. R., Fakher-Aldin, M. (2003, October). Telephone counseling: A comparison of Arab and Jewish Israeli usage. International Social Work, 46(4), pg. 495.
57 Carlson, S. (2002, November). As campus psychologists go online, they reach more students, may also risk lawsuits. Virtual Counseling, 49(12).