What Does an Online Therapist Do?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett
Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

An online therapist has many of the same job duties as an equivalent live therapist, but must also perform extra duties in order to run a safe and effective online practice. The idea of distance therapy is not new, with online therapy being directly preceded by teletherapy, but the practice itself has always been held suspect. For some therapists, one of the most important parts of the job is establishing that online therapy can be successful and generating genuine rapport between the therapist and client. This type of therapy is particularly appropriate for people who do not feel comfortable with traditional therapy, so gaining special experience with these groups can help an online therapist find clients more easily.

What an online therapist does depends on his or her actual expertise. It is not usually possible to practice psychiatry purely online, as it is not ethical for psychiatrists to dispense medications or deliver essential treatment through the Internet. Psychologists, particularly those who work with career goals, addiction, or shyness, may be well equipped to treat patients online. The ways in which an online therapist works with each of these groups depends on personal philosophy and the needs of the clients.

One of the most important parts of an online therapist's job is actually providing therapy. While the content of what is discussed may be similar to a face-to-face session, the delivery method is not. Maintaining appointments through video chat, text chat, or other communication tools is essential. This means not only attending these sessions and making sure that all relevant technology is functional, but also ensuring that the privacy and safety of the client is preserved. The Internet can be a dangerous place to conduct sensitive exchanges.

Many types of therapy can be provided online, but the most popular are issues that are either embarrassing or non-essential. Addicts and other people who are afraid of facing a therapist in person often find success with the distance provided by online therapy. Likewise, people who are trying to improve themselves or conquer professional problems may also seek online therapy, as it avoids the stigma of attending traditional therapy. Life coaching is often provided through online methods.

Actual therapy provided by an online therapist should be therapeutically equivalent to therapy provided in person. This means that if results are not being achieved online, the therapist should feel obligated to suggest alternatives. Job security for online therapists is always problematic, not only because people may not always pay online, but also because of the way in which online services are viewed as unofficial. As such, a savvy online therapist must work to establish not only his or her own legitimacy, but also the validity of the practice as a whole.

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