Studies Related to Effectiveness of Online Counselling

Here’s a sampling of literature on research into the benefits and effectiveness of online counselling/therapy:

Studies have repeatedly verified the power of therapy delivered by remote means: chat, e-mail, video, phone and texting …. Research now demonstrates that psychotherapy delivered via e-mail, video, chat, voice or texting can effectively treat cognitive, emotional and behavioral disorders.”   Epstein R, Distance Therapy Comes of Age.  Scientific American Mind [serial online]. May 2011;22(2):60-63.

Cybercounselling is a field that has seen tremendous growth in the past ten years … This research confirms the results of reviewed research and makes plain that online counselling can provide client satisfaction and counselling outcomes as good as those in face-to-face counselling.” Murphy L, et Al., Client Satisfaction and Outcome Comparisons of Online and Face-to-Face Counselling Methods. British Journal of Social Work; 2009: 1–14.

There is some evidence that text-based communications, such as chat and e-mail, result in more expressive and honest communications, especially in clients who feel uncomfortable in face-to-face interactions … This notion is supported by [other research] … suggesting the possible positive application of asynchronous methods. … Research suggested that the use of computers and Internet as a vehicle for therapeutic transmission may hold significant benefits, including the ability to reach a broader population including those underserved or living in rural communities.”  Perle JG, Langsam LC, Nierenberg B, Controversy clarified: An updated review of clinical psychology and tele-health.  Clinical Psychology Review 2011; 31:1247–1258.

There were benefits to writing instead of talking … [Participants] had time to think before responding, allowed more complex meaning and expression … Could write things that were too difficult to state out loud … Could review session transcripts later for meaning and comfort”. Therapist-led Live Chat Support Groups for Canadians Affected by Cancer. Stephen J, Rojubally A, MacGregor K, McLeod D, Speca M, Taylor-Brown J, Fergus K, Collie K, Turner J, Sellick S, Collie K. Poster presented at BC Alliance on Telehealth Policy and Research workshop, June 18, 2013.

E-counselling can significantly lower blood pressure, improve lifestyle and enhance quality of life, says Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher Dr. Robert Nolan…. The moods of people coping with high blood pressure also improved while they were participating in the e-counselling program. Depression is known to have an adverse effect on patients with high blood pressure”quoted in “E-counselling Shows Dramatic Results in Lowering Blood Pressure“.

Researchers “concluded that ‘Internet based therapy on the average is as effective or nearly as effective as face to face therapy’ … Our results support this in suggesting that our online approach is the equal of face-to-face counselling.”  Murphy, L. J. and Mitchell, D. L. (1998) ‘When writing helps to heal: E-mail as therapy’, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 26, pp. 21–32.

Research … concluded that the impact and effectiveness of face to face and e-counselling were comparable.”  Saidman L, An Introduction to Online Counselling. BCACC Insights into Clinical Counselling. 2011; May:6-7.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) delivered via email appears effective in treating general anxiety disorder…. This new approach to CBT is important in order to overcome potential barriers to accessing treatment.” May 18, 2013 News Release from American Psychiatric Association.

“With individuals’ increasing comfort with technology, and demand to access services when and how they choose, many services including clinical ones are moving online. As individuals adapt to an ever-changing world, they expect their service providers to also keep pace with these changes … Findings indicate that … the overall level of client satisfaction [with text-based online counselling] was 87%. … Writing therapy has long been considered a powerful medium for self-help … The act of writing provides an individual with the physical means of expressing their private thoughts and feelings and of being actively involved in their own therapeutic process without being in a face-to-face encounter … Research suggests that the written word is more than capable of communicating emotion … An added benefit to written communication is the disinhibition effect that individuals feel from the sense of anonymity that online counselling provides … Clients generally feel more comfortable self-disclosing and self-reflecting and less fearful of being judged in this setting …This directness also allows the client to get to the heart of the matter faster and perhaps with less hesitation. Both client and counsellor still have time to reflect, to privately process their reactions, and to give thought to their responses.”  Attracting New Eap Users Through Online Text-Based Chat Services