Online counselling has been described as an emerging trend and an anytime, anyplace activity that is supported by portable technology. Time constraints and geographical barriers are removed with online counselling. Counselling involves a series of skills and strategies along with a therapeutic approach. Self-disclosure is sometimes used in order to help build and deepen the therapeutic relationship. This chapter focuses on self-disclosure as a useful strategy for sharing information with others in a Web mediated context. In many counselling situations, considerable benefit may stem from online counsellor/counsellee mutual self-disclosure. The anonymity of the interaction seems to facilitate a sense of personal freedom and privacy that frees the client to talk to the counsellor with a sense of personal safety and security. These benefits notwithstanding, a number of challenges and ethical issues are involved in self-disclosure in online counselling and these should be taken into consideration by stakeholders.
The Concept Of Counselling
Online counselling (also known as e-therapy) is a relatively recent innovation brought about by information and communication technology, involving a one-to-one interaction between a client and an offering a professional counselling service.
A plethora of Internet facilities provide forms of counselling. These include peer support groups for specific problems, message forums, and chat rooms. Peer based on-line discussion and therapy groups have been present on the Internet for over a decade, with some of them mediated by a professional counselor (Gedge, 2002).
Online counseling, according to Gedge (2002), is currently present in three basic forms. First, e-mail question and response—with many sites offering discounts on multiple emails. Second, chat programmes in which an appointment is made and generally paid for before counsellor and client “meet” online, using solely text based exchanges for a specified amount of time. This is evolving into secure Web based messaging. Third, video or audio links in which counsellor and client are visible over a Web based camera (Webcam).