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E-mail counseling

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E-mail counseling is method of providing advice and guidance on a one-to-one basis from a professional counselor, psychologist or mental health practitioner to an individual privately via electronic mail instead of the traditional format of face-to-face consultation. The types of problems addressed cover the full range of the human experience, in relationship to self and others. In many cases e-mail counseling is supported by self-help behavior modification exercises.

Psychology Edit

Psychology is defined by the American Psychological Association [1]as :

"The study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience — from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centers to mental health care services, "the understanding of behavior" is the enterprise of psychologists."

As such, psychology takes into account all of the factors that affect behavior or the way a person adjusts to their environment; history, philosophy and society. A psychologist uses behavior analysis techniques that focus on the specific elements that are responsible for what the individual has learned that shapes the way they behave. Behavioral modification is accomplished through the systematic use of principles of learning to increase the frequency of desired behaviors and/or decrease the frequency of problem behaviors.

Although there are different branches of psychology, counseling psychology and psychotherapy are being used more frequently in person and online by e-mail to address the complex issues that are present in today's world. Changing environments and values present many challenges that impact human behavior that can create conflicts and confusion, particularly in terms of inter-personal relationships such as:

• Friendships
• Family
• Romantic
• Professional Relationships [2]

Counseling Edit

The role of a clinical or counseling psychologist is to apply their knowledge of human behavior and the mind to help the individual come to terms with the problems that they are experiencing and communicate solutions to them effectively to resolve the issues. The practice of counseling, where one individual seeks guidance from another is an age-old concept and is defined as: "Guidance provided by professional counselors in academic, vocational, and personal matters."

However the practice of counseling psychology is closely related to clinical psychology and the difference rests in their areas of treatment. Counseling psychologists, more than clinical psychologists, focus on issues that revolve around family, work and self, such as relationship and development issues, where clinical psychologists focus on mental health issues with more serious implications.

A counseling psychologist is in essence a "problem solver." They evaluate role functioning, the possible results and the options available to achieve them. They listen to the problem; analyze it in terms of present events and conscious, rational thinking rather than unconscious motivations.

They are also concerned with the motivations for actions and as a mental health professional they rely on a foundation of the elements that contribute to human behavior including physiology and society: chemistry, biology, physics, history, sociology, art, literature, religion and languages. This branch of psychology is also related to the field of education as well as vocational psychology that specifically addresses helping individuals to make appropriate career choices through personal guidance.

While counseling psychology encompasses the theories of psychotherapy, which relate to changes in basic character and unconscious blockages, the parameters of counseling psychology are restricted to the present and eminent problems that an individual is facing. However there are some psychologists that hold the opinion that psychotherapy and counseling are not two separate fields of study. [3]

In the traditional method of counseling, an individual would seek the assistance of a psychologist in person at the office of the therapist. While this method of counseling is still in practice, the advent of the Internet has provided counseling psychologists and other mental health care professionals the means to offer their services online to individuals who may not be able or prefer not to participate in the traditional method of therapy.

Online Counseling Edit

Online counseling can be divided into 5 major categories:

1. Behavioral modification counseling provided by psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals via video conferencing systems.
2. Mental health advice or information, via e-mail to give specific requested information.
3. Online counseling used in conjunction to face-to-face services.
4. E-therapy: Regular counseling sessions provided online via chat applications or e-mail.
5. Full service counseling and mental health advice online.

The primary benefit of online counseling or e-mail counseling is the fact that the sessions are conducted in the privacy of the individuals' home or office. In addition to e-mail as the medium for counseling, some therapists also use telephone and video conferencing services.

E-mail counseling facilitates personal and interpersonal functioning in different phases of life span with a special emphasis on personal, emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related and developmental issues. [4]

"Online dating" or "Internet matchmaking" services have given rise to a new dimension of interpersonal relationships, connecting people from all over the world and expanding the need for multi-cultural understanding of personal relationship values. Seeking advice in matters of the heart has been one of the most central issues in counseling psychology. Online counseling for relationship problems or advice in regards to Internet dating combines practical information on best practices for safety and security with information to assist the person to fulfill their desire for companionship through a better understanding of their own behavior as well as that of others. [5]

Along with relationship and dating advice that is provided by these online counselors, there are many websites that provide self-help tools that an individual can use to discover their motivations in the privacy of their home. Assessment plays a vital role in all forms of counseling; online as well as offline. While there are various psychological assessment procedures that are relevant, for online counseling, especially counseling via e-mail provides many benefits to the assessment process in contrast to face-to-face counseling.

The process of counseling is one of self-discovery and interactive evaluation methods, such as an online relationship quiz and love test [6], provide support to their one-on-one counseling by e-mail. Assessment tools such as this test help individuals to gain insight into how their behavior translates into actions. There are many online therapists and counselors who provide other types of self-help tools in the form of CD ROMs, books and audiovisual exercises. Many therapists provide offline sessions in different formats as an adjunct to e-mail counseling.

Some of the reasons for using e-mail counseling as follows:

1. E-mail counseling provides personal space, comfort and safety for individuals who have difficulty discussing their personal problems directly with another person. For some individuals, it is easier to express themselves in writing than face-to-face or on the telephone. E-mail counseling offers a level of personal privacy that goes beyond the capabilities of telephone therapy and face-to-face treatment provides.
2. With e-mail counseling, you set the pace; you can take as much time as you want to compose your thoughts, reflect on your responses and those of your counselor, responding to them when you are ready. Counseling by e-mail provides an excellent way to track your progress and review past session notes.
3. E-mail or online counseling guidelines are set by professional organizations. The California Board of Behavioral Sciences sets stringent guidelines for licensed professionals and provides information to consumers at their website. [7]
4. Online or e-mail counseling provides access to individuals who are physically handicapped, or those who will not or cannot access local treatment. People with speaking or hearing disabilities, those with concerns about the opinions of others can avail themselves of therapy.
5. Many misunderstandings and misinterpretations that occur in face-to-face therapy may be minimized using e-mail counseling.[8]

There are many online or e-mail counseling services, however as with any medical service, it is important to check the references and be certain of your payment responsibilities for online or e-mail counseling services.



ReferencesEdit

1. The American Psychological Association
2. Dr. C. George Boeree, Professor of Psychology, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
3, “A Guide to Psychology and its Practice” Copyright © Raymond Lloyd Richmond, PH.D.
4. Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, LPC, LISAC, DCC
5. Ron Sterling, M.D.
6. Relationship Quiz and Love Test, Copyright © Alina Ruigrok
7. The California Board of Behavioral Sciences
8. Paul J. Hannig, PH.D. MFCC – Psychotherapy HELP

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