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Absolutely. Extensive research has been conducted on tele-counseling and the results are overwhelmingly positive. In the most significant study to date, Reese, et al.  found that telephone counseling was as effective as face-to-face counseling for a wide range of problems. Further, many clients were even more satisfied with tele-counseling because of the improved confidentiality, convenience, and continuity of sessions (i.e. it was easier to keep appointments and therefore, keep the flow going). As one study reports  ".there is an existing body of literature on the telephone. The telephone has been shown to be a cost-effective, clinically useful, ethical intervention modality. We trust some the most serious mental health problems to phone interventions now (e.g., suicide hotlines), and this modality lacks nearly all non-verbal cues (p. 14)."
1. Reese, R., Conoley, C., Brossart, D. Effectiveness of telephone counseling: A field-based investigation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49(2).
2. Manhal-Baugus, M. E-Therapy: Practical, ethical, and legal issues. Cybercounsel.org. Retrieved September 3, 2005, from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2/content_storage_01/0000000b/80/0d/63/90.pdf
Despite the loss of facial cues, a large percentage of non-verbal communication is comprised of tones-of-voice, specific word choice, pauses and vocalizations ("um," "ah," etc.), and other non-verbal cues that a tele-counselor has been trained to recognize and effectively interpret. Research on tele-counseling shows that in the absence of visual cues, clients and therapists find many other ways (both verbal and non-verbal) to avoid misunderstandings and to effectively communicate subtle shifts in emotion and meaning. (; ; ). Remember, for the first 100 years of psychology's history, therapists positioned clients facing away from the therapist specifically to enable clients to more easily share personal information without fear or embarrassment. Under certain circumstances, facial expressions can be more of a hindrance than a help. If you like, think of your experience in tele-counseling as a variation on the theme of Confession "behind the screen." (only without absolution, of course).
1. Alleman, J. Online counseling: The internet and mental health treatment. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 39(2). 2. Lindon, J. Psychoanalysis by telephone. In J.K. Aronson (Ed.). Use of the Telephone in Psychotherapy (pp. 3-13). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson 3. Schaffer, S. Legal and ethical issues. In J.K. Aronson (Ed.). Use of the Telephone in Psychotherapy (pp. 442-457). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.
We can work with individuals and with couples. Husbands and wives (or any two people, i.e., Mothers/Daughters, Fathers/Sons, etc.) who wish to meet simultaneously in session may choose to use a speaker phone, or separate extensions, or in some cases, may arrange for three-way calling. This last option is especially useful for marriage counseling cases in which one spouse travels a great deal. It is not unusual for us to conduct sessions with couples where the therapist, husband, and wife are in three separate time zones.
Yes. Persons who experience hallucinations or psychosis or whose primary complaint is a serious addiction to drugs or alcohol, or who have persistent and serious thoughts about harming themselves or others should seek local mental health assistance. In all other instances, your counselor can help you determine whether your problems can be managed safely and effectively via distance counseling. In most cases, they can, but we will provide you with an absolutely honest assessment in our initial, free, informational interview. We are committed to helping you receive the help you need regardless of who provides it. Please direct all other questions to your counselor in your initial, free, informational interview.