Internet Counselling – Life is a struggle and it is fraught with challenges. Males and females of all ages face one problem or the other during their lifetime. The ways and manners they tackle their problems depend on the help or assistance that is at their disposal.
Traditionally, some people with problems go to elders to seek for assistance, others go to dividers and native doctors to make inquires and seek solution to their problems. Presently, people having challenging issues seek assistance from their friends who they very much confidence in, others seek for professional counsellors.
The counselling service provided by these professionals is the face to face counselling service. Some individuals do not find time to go to a counsellor rather they stay and die with their problems within the confines of their homes. There are others who get inhibited when they go for counselling by the physical presence of the counsellor.
The world is changing and is going technological. Different prodessions have introduced the use of electronic devices into their business. Counselling as a profession is not left out especially in the developed countries. Counselling profession has introduced the use of technology assisted devices into the profession.
Counsellor educators in developing countries should brace up to this emerging aspect of the counselling profession. It should be reflected in their counsellor preparation programme either by infusion or as a stand-alone course. In view of this envisaged circumstance, it is pertinent that the ethical standards in the use of technology assisted distance counselling should be part of the course content. This article’s focus is on internet counselling and not other technology assisted distance counselling practices.
Internet counselling is an emerging aspect of counselling. Like other types of counselling, it involves the application of mental health, psychological, or human development principles through cognitive, affective, behavioural or systematic interventions strategies, that address personal growth, or career development as well as Pathology.
Internet counselling is technology assisted counselling. Technology assisted counselling involves the use of telephone or computers connected to the internet to enable counsellors and clients communicate from a distance using electronic devices. Technology assisted counselling is usually counselling done from a distance via the use of technology such as telephones and Internet devices.
Telephone counselling is also called telecounselling. It involves synchronous distance interaction among counsellors and clients using what is heard via audio to communicate. This type of counselling holds futures for the nation where the professional counsellors are trained to use technology and if telephone services are great improved than what it is presently. The availability of mobile phone services holds future for telecounselling for all but more especially for the adolescents and youths since virtually all of then have functional handsets.
Internet counselling according to NBCC, (2003) involves asynchronous and synchronous distance interaction among counsellors and clients using e-mail, chat and video conferencing features of the Internet to communicate. In using the e-mail (electronic mail) for counselling, it involves asynchronous distance interaction between a counsellor and a client using what is read via text to communicate. Put differently, it involves the counsellor and client sending messages through e-mail on subject matter of concern to the client.
In the use of e-mail for counselling, the counsellor and client may or may not have known each other. It does not involve physical seeing of each other as in face-to-face counselling. They communicate through text messages via the net. Another aspect of internet counselling is the chat-based internet counselling. This involves synchronous distance interaction between between a professional counsellor and a client using what is read via text to communicate. Apart from the use of email and chatting for internet counselling, the video based internet counselling is yet another form of internet counselling.
Video based internet counselling involves synchronous distance interaction between counsellor and client using what is seen and heard via video to communicate. This form of internet counselling requires the additional use of a web-cam to the internet facility. The web-cam is like a camera. It is placed where the pictures of the counsellor and client would be relayed to each other alongside with what they say. It is usually place on the monitor of the table-top computer each of the counsellor and client is using.
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REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERNET COUNSELLING
There must be the existence of a counsellor and a client for counselling to take place. In internet counselling, this should be but not in physical proximity rather through communication in the Internet. There are things apart from persons that are required for Internet counselling to take place. These include:
- A set of computer that is connected to an Internet server or telephone line. The server or telephone line allows one to get into the world wide web (www) where the client can click, surf the Internet and write and send emails.
- Both the counsellor and client should have valid and functional email addresses with any search engine of their choice e.g Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN etc
- There may be a need for a printer which can be used to print messages sent either by the counsellor or client. It is better to store the information in the counsellors or client’s email box.
- There should be a scanner. This can be used to scan materials that will be attached to the emails to be sent either to the counsellor or client depending on who is sending to the other.
- There should be uninterrupted power supply (UPS). This should be fully charged most of the time and connected to the system. This will help to forestall the immediate effects of power outage in case the counsellor or client is on line sending or receiving an email or chatting or engaged in video conferencing.
- There should be a web-camera (web-cam). The requirement is optional. It is used when attempts are made to approximate internet counselling to face-to-face counselling though not physically.
CLIENTS FOR INTERNET COUNSELLING
Conventional counselling is for everybody except those with mental problems. This statement cannot be totally true when extended to internet counselling, but it can help clients to cope with the problems that affect men and women of all ages. Specifically the clients for internet counselling include those finding it difficult to adjust to situations such as:
- Relationship conflicts
- Job stresses
- Mid-life crisis e.g menopause for women
- Parenting challenges
- Adoption searches and reunion
- Unplanned pregnancies
- Marital problems
- Step-family or blended family issues
- Family conflict
- Weight struggle
- Coping with loss/grief following death of a loved one
- Pregnancy loss
- Issues of not having a male child in the family (relevant for Africans)
- Adoption relinquishment
- Issue of separation or divorce
- Pre and post HIV test counselling issues.
However, internet counselling is not suitable for handling all cases in counselling. Specifically, internet counselling has been said to not be suitable for:
- Persons actively contemplating suicide. This is primary because the issue is serious, it needs immediate attention. It is a counselling case that cannot wait.
- Persons in dangerous crisis where the client or somebody close to him/her is at risk of injury.
In the above circumstances, the client should reach out to his/her doctor, a professional counsellor staying within the immediate vicinity, a prayerful man/woman of God etc to receive assistance.