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Cyberpsychol Behav. 2001 Oct;4(5):551-63.

E-therapy: practical, ethical, and legal issues.

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  • 1College of Education, Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia, USA.


E-therapy is a term that has been coined to describe the process of interacting with a therapist online in ongoing conversations over time when the client and counselor are in separate or remote locations and utilize electronic means to communicate with each other. It is a relatively new modality of assisting individuals resolve life and relationship issues. E-therapy utilizes the power and convenience of the internet to allow simultaneous (synchronous) and time-delayed (asynchronous) communication between an individual and a professional. For the purposes of this paper, e-therapy is defined as a licensed mental health care professional providing mental health services via e-mail, video conferencing, virtual reality technology, chat technology, or any combination of these. It does not include self-help methods such as public bulletin boards or private listservs. E-therapy is not psychotherapy or psychological counseling per se since it does to presume to diagnose or treat mental or medical disorders. However, e-therapy is flexible enough to also address many difficulties which clients present to the online therapist. As in other types of therapy, such as bibliotherapy, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation therapy), e-therapy does assist a person in addressing specific concerns with specific skills. This article examines the following issues of e-therapy. First, the types of e-therapy and related services are described to provide a background for the article. Second, the ethical codes which have been adopted by three major professional organizations (American Counseling Association, National Board for Certified Counselors, and the International Society for Mental Health Online) pertaining to e-therapy are summarized for professional and consumer use. Finally, the practical, ethical, and legal issues of e-therapy services are discussed fully.

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