Online Therapy

Home Online therapy is a recent phenomena. There are many points of view and many different approaches.  Many social workers are represented.  

Consumers and providers should both be very careful in this new arena.  There a great many unresolved issues:  how to protect privacy online, verification of provider and client, emergency plans, medication backup, licensure (online therapy can be an unregulated form of professional practice across state lines while most professionals are licensed on a state-by-state basis), payment, and maintenance of records are a few issues.

More providers of online therapy say it is not therapy, while few suggest it is a modification of standard therapy.


Martha Ainsworth's ABC's of Internet Therapy is an excellent and balanced introduction. She provides an overview, coming down to the conclusion the online therapy is really something different, but can be useful. She also explicitly tells people in crisis and in therapy already to look elsewhere. Ethical and legal issues are well addressed. Effectiveness summary is a guess, but seems reasonable given no formal evaluation and comparison. 

The International Society for Mental Health Online (ISMHO) promotes the understanding, use and development of online communication, information and technology for the international mental health community.  Includes a useful draft ethical statement and many links.  

J. M. Grohol offers a fine series of papers describing online therapy and surrounding issues on the ISMHO site:  Definition & Scope  (5/99),  Confidentiality & Privacy (4/99), and Legal & Licensing Issues (10/99).  Grohol also notes email is the preferred modality.  

Craig Childress examines Potential Risks and Benefits of Online Psychotherapeutic Interventions on the ISMHO site.

Gary Stofle, ACSW offers an online article on the practical and ethical issues related to online therapy.

Susan Brown does video-counseling online using live web camera and sound links. She also offers reasonable contraindication criteria.

Joseph Palouf offers web-based posting regarding psychotherapy online. Yield to date is limited, however. Add your question!

Steven Herman notes interest among psychologists in 1998.

to Social Work Resources

1999, 2000;  last update 7/7/02