Rust's long-distance patients complete a 23-page assessment, and she conducts e-mail sessions only with clients too far away to phone, such as those in Brazil and Singapore. Those exchanges take place in a password-protected chat room.
"The thing is, in a year, this is all going to be moot," Rust says. "We're all going to have video capabilities and be able to see people." In the meantime, the pitfalls of online therapy need to be addressed -- at least, that's the belief of the National Board for Certified Counselors. In June, the NBCC approved a 20-point "Standards for the Ethical Practice of Web Counseling." The American Psychological Association's annual conference last month also addressed the issues of online psychology.
"Because it's so new and because we don't have definitive answers, we feel uncomfortable promoting" online therapy, says Dr. John Bloom, the NBCC board member who headed the Web-counseling committee and wrote the standards. "But nonetheless it's being done, and because of that we feel a responsibility to the public and the profession to see that it's done as professionally and ethically as possible."
Where to look
Using the search engine Yahoo!, we found 38 sites under the heading "online counseling." Here are some specific addresses offering information. All Web site addresses begin with http: //.
* www.apa.org -- The American Psychological Association site contains ethics information as well as journal articles.
* www.nbcc.org -- The 26,000-member National Board for Counselor Certificaion, a nonprofit organization, recently drew up an online ethics code.
* www.grohol.com -- Information from Dr. John Grohol of Mental Health Net.
* www.cmhc.com -- A listing of mental health services online.
* www.deepcove.com/therapy/ services.htm Therapy Online, one of the first and most well-regarded Web counseling sites.
* www.edrecovery.com -- Jeanne Rust's educational information on eating disorders.
* www.csudh.edu/psych/lrosen.htm-- Dr. Larry Rosen offers information about psychotherapy and a link to the article "From the Couch to Cybertherapy."
* www.dcez.com/davids/ pageone.html -- The Mental Health Cyber Clinic.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Pub Date: 9/09/97