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THEMajor
10.1177/0011000005278623
Mallen,
COUNSELING
VogelContribution
/ ONLINE
PSYCHOLOGIST
COUNSELING/ November 2005

Introduction to the Major Contribution:


Counseling Psychology and Online Counseling

Michael J. Mallen
David L. Vogel
Iowa State University

This article introduces the Major Contribution, which focuses on online counseling.
Several acronyms and terms are presented to familiarize the reader with distance-
communication technology, including a definition of online counseling. The authors
show how counseling psychology provides a framework for specific questions related to
the theory, research, and practice of online counseling. In addition, they discuss counsel-
ing psychology’s emphasis on the scientist-practitioner model, history of process and
outcome research, and unifying themes to provide a context for the succeeding articles on
the research and practice of online counseling.

Online counseling is no longer something that will take shape in the


future. Right now, it is possible for a person to access the Internet, find a
professional counselor, and have a session. There are already Web sites
devoted to consortiums of counselors (e.g., http://www.helphorizons.com,
http://www.netcounselors.com) and hundreds of sites created by private
practitioners to advertise their services. More than a hundred million people
per month use the Internet to search for health information (Harris Interac-
tive, 2002), and companies are capitalizing on this by charging fees for men-
tal and behavioral health services. For example, Caremark (http://
www.caremark .com) is a company staffed by registered nurses. The Web
site advertises the following services: counseling on lifestyle concerns, pro-
viding individually targeted educational materials, empowering the partici-
pant, and encouraging self-care. These services closely parallel those that
counseling psychologists traditionally provide and that insurance providers
such as Medicare typically reimburse; however, there are no counseling or
other types of psychologists involved in the provision of these services. As
such, it is important for counseling psychologists to be aware of the scope of

Michael J. Mallen would like to thank Emily Evangeline Mallen for her support and patience
through the many hours of developing and revising this Major Contribution. Correspondence
concerning this article should be addressed to Michael J. Mallen, Department of Behavioral Sci-
ence, Unit 1330, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, P.O. Box 301439, Houston,
TX 77230-1439; e-mail: mjmallen@mdanderson.org.
THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST, Vol. 33 No. 6, November 2005 761-775
DOI: 10.1177/0011000005278623
© 2005 by the Society of Counseling Psychology
761

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762 THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST / November 2005

online counseling, as it is predicted to increase in the next 10 years (Norcross,


Hedges, & Prochaska, 2002). In addition, there is a need to examine the
effectiveness of different online mental and behavioral health services and to
ensure that they are provided in an ethical and professional manner.
There have been several calls for inquiry into the dynamics and potential
effectiveness of online counseling (e.g., Finfgeld, 1999; Murphy & Mitchell,
1998: Shapiro & Schulman, 1996; VandenBos & Williams, 2000). Fenichel
(2004, pp. 4, 13) summarized the current state of these new modes of service
delivery in Online Counseling: A Handbook for Mental Health Professionals:

Although “What is therapy?” is still the subject of great debate, there is little
doubt that many online clinicians, support communities, and self-help Web
sites are offering therapeutic services and experiences. Counseling is available
online as both an open-ended process and for a wide range of goal-directed
ends, ranging from vocational decision making to bolstering self-esteem, and a
sense of interpersonal competency. . . . In this new dawn where communication
is possible between anyone on earth with the skills, desire, and technology to
reach across barriers and boundaries, we confront both tremendous challenges
and opportunities to do the right thing as practitioners and mental health
professionals.

This special issue begins with an introduction to online counseling and


describes the contextual framework for the articles. The second article criti-
cally evaluates the available online-counseling literature, including empiri-
cal studies on the clinical uses of synchronous chat, asynchronous e-mail,
videoconferencing, and the telephone. It addresses unanswered questions
and gaps in the literature from a counseling psychology perspective and rec-
ommends research guidelines. The third article focuses on the practical, ethi-
cal, legal, and training issues of online counseling. The article uses a full-
length transcript from a synchronous-chat session to highlight many of the
practical challenges of working with a client who is not physically present.
To begin this contribution, we present certain acronyms and definitions to
familiarize the reader with the terminology of online counseling.

ACRONYMS AND DEFINITIONS

Throughout the articles, several terms are used to describe technologies,


and acronyms are used for common phrases to save space. A distinction
between face-to-face (FtF) communication and computer-mediated commu-
nication (CMC) is often made. FtF implies that the parties involved are physi-
cally present in the same room at the same time; CMC implies that they are in
different locations and are communicating through one of several distance-

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Mallen, Vogel / ONLINE COUNSELING 763

communication technologies, such as asynchronous e-mail, synchronous


chat, and videoconferencing.
Asynchronous e-mail is the most common form of CMC and can be con-
sidered a method of online letter writing. The International Data Corporation
(IDC), a global market intelligence and advisory firm in the information-
technology and telecommunications industries, predicted that the number of
person-to-person e-mails sent on an average day would likely exceed 36 bil-
lion worldwide in 2005 (http://www.idc.com). In asynchronous e-mail, an
individual composes a message through an e-mail provider, such as America
Online, Hotmail, or Yahoo, and sends the message to another individual.
Once the message is sent, the recipient can view it at his or her convenience
and can respond in a similar fashion. It is considered asynchronous because
the communicators do not need to be online at the same time and because
communication can occur between two parties in sporadic intervals of hours,
days, or weeks.
Synchronous chat is similar to asynchronous e-mail in that an individual
composes a message and sends it to someone else. The difference is that the
recipient is also online and immediately views the message as it appears on
the screen. Once the message is viewed, a response is typed and sent back.
This process repeats until one party decides to leave the conversation. It is
considered synchronous because the communication happens in real time
with both parties present. To provide a more thorough explanation of how
online counseling might occur through synchronous chat, an example of a
synchronous-chat session is discussed in a later article devoted to practice
and ethics.
Videoconferencing is less common than asynchronous e-mail and syn-
chronous chat because not as many people have access to the required tech-
nology, but it provides more dynamic communication between parties (Zack,
2004). Videoconferencing allows the parties involved to send and receive not
only typewritten messages but also images or video. There may be an audio
component as well, meaning that it is possible to communicate through voice
instead of typewritten messages. Similar to chat, videoconferencing is con-
sidered synchronous because both parties need to be present during the
communication.
A significant challenge associated with online counseling and the various
technologies involved in delivering its services is reaching an agreement
regarding what is and what is not online counseling. The use of distance-
communication technologies to deliver mental and behavioral health ser-
vices has increased considerably over the past 10 years (Huang & Alessi,
1996; Sampson, Kolodinsky, & Greeno, 1997). A variety of terms has been
used to refer to these services, including e-mail therapy (Shapiro & Schulman,
1996), telepsychiatry (Brown, 1998), Internet psychotherapy (Stein, 1997),

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764 THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST / November 2005

cyber-psychology (Schiano, 1997), cybertherapy (Stricker, 1996), and


webcounseling (Bloom, 1998).
There have been efforts in recent years to define the practice of delivering
online mental and behavioral health services. The challenges of such a task
include an almost constant influx of technological innovations and vague
ethical standards regulating the practice of online counseling. For example,
Pomerantz (2002) defined e-therapy as “a professional counselor or psycho-
therapist communicating with a client over the Internet for the purpose of
mental health assistance or emotional help. The help may only be one inter-
action . . . or an ongoing dialogue and relationship” (p. 29). In contrast,
Manhal-Baugus (2001) defined it as “the process of interacting with a thera-
pist online in ongoing conversations over time when the client and counselor
are in separate or remote locations and utilize electronic means to communi-
cation with each other” (p. 551). To be consistent with these definitions and
the growing literature on distance-communication technologies, we use the
term online counseling throughout this article to encompass the growing
variety of therapeutic services that are currently offered. We define online
counseling as

any delivery of mental and behavioral health services, including but not
limited to therapy, consultation, and psychoeducation, by a licensed practitio-
ner to a client in a non-FtF setting through distance communication technolo-
gies such as the telephone, asynchronous e-mail, synchronous chat, and
videoconferencing.

This definition covers the array of psychological services being delivered


through existing technologies. In addition, the definition accommodates new
technologies and innovations that have yet to either be discovered or reach a
critical mass in the marketplace (Oliver, Marwell, & Teixeira, 1985). With
these important terms clarified, the focus now shifts to how the field of coun-
seling psychology can provide a unique framework for discussing the theory,
research, and practice of online counseling.

WHY COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY?

The field of counseling psychology is well suited to provide and evaluate


online counseling for the following reasons: (a) counseling psychologists’
training in the scientist-practitioner model, (b) the field’s rich research his-
tory on the process and outcome of FtF therapy, and (c) the field’s core com-
ponents or unifying themes. First, the scientist-practitioner model of training
equips counseling psychologists to make significant contributions to the area

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Mallen, Vogel / ONLINE COUNSELING 765

of online counseling. The scientist-practitioner model is devoted to training


professionals to perform in the roles of both helper and researcher. The pro-
fession of counseling psychology made this clear in its inaugural definition,
which stated that “counseling psychologists can make unique contributions
to psychological knowledge because their counseling experience provides an
especially fruitful opportunity to formulate hypotheses. It is therefore essen-
tial to maximize their research training” (American Psychological Associa-
tion, 1952, p. 180). Counseling psychologists have turned this mission state-
ment into primarily three levels of “being a scientist” (Gelso & Fretz, 2000).
Level 1 is having a basic understanding of empirical research and applying
this research to practice. Level 2 is incorporating the scientific process into
the practice; this means that practitioners should develop hypotheses based
on case material, test these hypotheses during their clinical work, and evalu-
ate the results with their clients. Level 3 is conducting scientific research
firsthand (Gelso & Lent, 2000). Focusing on both clinical experience and
training in how to conduct scientifically sound research on counseling
relationships puts counseling psychologists in the position to provide ethical
and professional services in an online environment.
It has been noted that conducting controlled research in clinical settings is
not the only facet of the scientist-practitioner model. Haynes, Lemsky, and
Sexton-Radek (1987) stated that the model

implies the adoption of an observational, inquisitive, and integrative orienta-


tion toward therapy. The scientist-practitioner function as a participant
observer of clients’ behavior and the intervention process in addition to adopt-
ing an inquisitive stance regarding relationships among behaviors and the
causes and mediators of behavior and behavior change. (p. 17)

Recently, counseling psychologists have been encouraged to further inte-


grate science and practice and to embrace evidence-based practice
(Chwalisz, 2003). Other authors have stated that counseling psychology
should continue to move toward a deeper affirmation of the field’s commit-
ment to prevention, multiculturalism, and social justice (Hage, 2003).
Although changing health care systems are shifting some views about the
meaning of being a scientist-practitioner, counseling psychologists’commit-
ment to the scientist-practitioner model has not faltered since the Greyston
(1964) and Georgia (1987) conferences. The continued emphasis on science
and practice uniquely prepares counseling psychologists to examine,
scrutinize, and implement new modes of service delivery.
Second, process and outcome research has a long history in the field of
counseling psychology. Hill, Nutt, and Jackson (1994) summarized research
trends in Journal of Counseling Psychology (JCP). It was found that more

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766 THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST / November 2005

than 40% of JCP articles published between 1978 and 1992 were related to
therapy, including process, process-outcome, outcome, and analogue stud-
ies. This history, including classic articles on FtF counseling, has produced a
solid foundation (e.g., Barak & Lacrosse, 1975; Corrigan, Dell, Lewis, &
Schmidt, 1980; Elliott, 1985; Hill, Carter, & O’Farrell, 1983; Strong, 1968).
Certainly, counseling psychologists are uniquely prepared to evaluate the
process and outcome of online counseling.
In addition to the scientist-practitioner model and the history of process-
outcome research, the specific core components of counseling psychology
offer a useful framework to understand and examine the research and profes-
sional issues related to online counseling. Specifically, counseling psychol-
ogy’s unique focus on (a) normal and developmental challenges or tasks;
(b) clients’ strength and resilience; (c) short-term interventions; (d) person-
environment interactions; (e) education and career development; (f) preven-
tion, consultation, psychoeducation, and wellness; and (g) multiculturalism
(e.g., Gelso & Fretz, 2000; Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, & Alexander, 1995;
Ponterotto, Fuertes, & Chen, 2000; Sue et al., 1998) provides practitioners
and researchers with a foundation of knowledge from which to begin to for-
mulate and answer questions about the scope, limitations, procedures, and
ethical issues associated with online counseling.

COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY AND THE RESEARCH AND


PRACTICE ISSUES RELATED TO ONLINE COUNSELING

Counseling psychology’s unifying themes provide a useful framework to


interpret the current online-counseling literature and to recognize future
needs. This special issue begins to provide a framework to guide practitioners
and researchers through the rapid development of the technology and the
spread of the new modes of service delivery. What follows is a brief introduc-
tion to how counseling psychology’s unique focus can shed light on the
research and practice issues related to online counseling.
Compared to other areas of psychology that focus on severe pathological
concerns, counseling psychology is predominantly concerned with normal
development (e.g., Erikson, 1959; Piaget, 1952) and with helping individuals
cope with both everyday problems, such as work (Hesketh, 2000) and life
transitions (e.g., Brammer & Abrego, 1981; Gelso & Fretz, 2000;
Schlossberg, 1981). There has been an ongoing dialogue regarding the
appropriate populations for online-counseling treatment (e.g., Griffiths,
2001; Landau, 2001; Manhal-Baugus, 2001; Shernoff, 2000; Stofle & Har-
rington, 2002; Suler, 2001; Zelvin & Speyer, 2004), but there are few
answers to the question of who would most benefit from these new modes of

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service delivery. Thus far, research findings indicate that online counseling
may be beneficial for clients who do not have easy access to traditional FtF
therapy—for example, those who are isolated in rural populations (e.g.,
Brown, 1998; Glueckauf et al., 2002) or underserved populations such as
prison inmates (Magaletta, Fagan, & Peyrot, 2000). It is possible that online
counseling could appeal to individuals who are functioning at a relatively
high level, who have access to the required technology, and who may not
require weekly FtF sessions with a therapist to sustain their mental health, but
these statements are speculative and warrant future research. Counseling
psychologists are in a unique position to examine whether online counseling
can accommodate the needs of clients who are struggling with normal life
transitions and problems. By evaluating online counseling through this per-
spective, counseling psychologists can pursue new directions in research and
practice to determine the appropriateness of online counseling for clients
with different levels of functioning and different presenting concerns.
Counseling psychologists emphasize client strength and resilience, seek-
ing to empower their clients by finding areas that the clients can control and
successfully manage. From that point, counselors can build on a client’s
strengths instead of focusing only on negative affect or behaviors. By allow-
ing an individual to receive treatment without coming to a therapist’s office,
online counseling may result in the client’s feeling less dependent on his or
her therapist. Not only may clients feel more comfortable in their normal
environment, but in some modes of online counseling, they also have more
control over self-presentation and can think through what they want to say.
Increased control over self-presentation, however, may not always lead to a
positive outcome if the client is holding back from openly communicating
with the therapist or if the therapist is overlooking certain client assets
because they may not be evident in an online setting. As such, looking at
online counseling in this context provides a framework to examine issues
such as how dependent or comfortable clients feel in an online-counseling
versus an FtF session, as well as what they are willing to self-disclose in the
different formats.
Counseling psychologists provide time-limited services to individuals
who can benefit from short-term treatments rather than long-term psycho-
therapy. Online counseling may be appropriate for short-term treatments,
self-help interventions, and cognitive-behavioral treatments. Numerous Web
sites, including MedlinePlus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/
mentalhealth.html), feature self-help and psychoeducational material related
to mental health available 24 hours a day. In addition, the nature of online
counseling would not seem to hinder several aspects of the structured nature
of many cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches. The main empha-
sis of cognitive therapies, for example, is to instruct clients how to correct

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768 THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST / November 2005

faulty thinking and to shift their distorted or dysfunctional beliefs, which


negatively affect overall well-being (Beck, 1996; Greenberger & Padesky,
1995).
Synchronous chat and asynchronous e-mail give the therapist access to
each client’s statements throughout the course of treatment in the form of
saved transcripts. As a result, the therapist can challenge clients with their
exact words from earlier sessions. The ability to save the exact words from a
session, however, does not come without ethical concerns, including how the
information is used or kept confidential. Furthermore, assessing affect is an
important piece in CBT, and the lack of nonverbal cues may preclude online
treatments from becoming effective. While online counseling may accom-
modate brief interactions with clients, its process may actually require more
time than FtF counseling because of the lack of nonverbal cues and the lim-
ited amount of information that can flow in certain forms of distance commu-
nication (Mallen, Day, & Green, 2003). This limited information flow may
lead to more contacts between the therapist and the client to achieve the same
benefits. As such, this vantage point reveals research questions regarding
what type of therapists, clients, presenting issues, and counseling theories are
suitable for online counseling.
Counseling psychologists also focus on person-environment interactions
in treatment, providing a framework in which to discuss research and prac-
tice efforts in online counseling. A challenge for online counseling may be
the potential difficulties of meaningfully connecting with a client through
distance-communication technologies. Without the benefit of contextual and
nonverbal cues, the ability to form a therapeutic relationship might be ham-
pered. Furthermore, because of the distance involved in online counseling, it
might be difficult for the client and the therapist to fully explore the impact of
person-environment interactions. As a result, it is important to consider
whether online counseling can accommodate the lack of nonverbal cues and
increased distance. If online counseling can overcome these limitations and a
therapeutic relationship can be successfully managed, it will be important to
discover how we can best teach these skills to the next generations of
counseling psychologists.
Counseling psychology has also been at the forefront of studying aca-
demic issues and concerns and providing career counseling services. Voca-
tional counselors have already infused technology into their services by
directing clients to computer-assisted programs for career exploration, such
as DISCOVER (Rayman & Harris-Bowlsbey, 1977) or SIGI PLUS (Norris,
Shatkin, & Katz, 1991). For instance, there are resources now available
online for career development, including interactive career decision-making
activities and Occupational Outlook Handbook (http://www.stats.bls.gov/
oco), which clients can use to investigate career options. A newer option for

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Mallen, Vogel / ONLINE COUNSELING 769

clients is the Occupational Information Network, or O*Net (http://


online.onetcenter.org), which organizes career information by job codes,
such as Dictionary of Occupational Titles, and areas of knowledge, skills, or
abilities. Counseling psychologists could assist in developing Web sites
devoted to educating the public about various mental health issues; these sites
could be accessed at times when FtF professionals are less likely to be avail-
able. Counseling psychologists also have the training to recognize, and steer
clients away from, the many Web sites that provide inaccurate or dated
information about career decision-making models and services.
Counseling psychology not only focuses on the negative symptoms of cli-
ents but also works to maintain mental and behavioral health through preven-
tion, psychoeducation, consultation, and wellness promotion. As more indi-
viduals suffer ailments that can be attributed to preventable behavioral or
lifestyle risk factors, counseling psychologists are in a unique position to
play a substantial role in primary prevention efforts (O’Byrne, Brammer,
Davidson, & Poston, 2002). Counseling psychologists have recently
recommitted themselves to prevention and wellness efforts (Albee, 2000;
Coyne, 2000; Romano & Hage, 2000; Vera, 2000). One advantage of online
counseling is that a therapist can offer forms of psychological assistance,
such as dynamic educational material about mental and behavioral health
issues, that are possibly more readily available than traditional modes of ther-
apy and that can further the prevention agenda. For example, research has
found that online support groups are frequently accessed between 5 p.m. and
9 a.m. (Chang, Yeh, & Krumboltz, 2001; Winzelberg, 1997), when tradi-
tional FtF services are difficult to access. On a related note, the Internet
allows counseling psychologists to extend psychoeducational and consultive
efforts to individuals worldwide 24 hours a day. An example of a psycho-
educational Web site is MySelfHelp.com, which offers online access to
bibliotherapy and self-help approaches for a wide variety of mental and
behavioral health issues. Online psychoeducational services can address
myths and misconceptions about treatments, promote compliance with treat-
ment recommendations, facilitate self-monitoring and measurement of prog-
ress, teach relapse-prevention strategies, and help clients change perva-
sive patterns of thinking and behaving, as well as specific symptoms
(Bedrosian, 2004). Therefore, online counseling has the potential to assist
counseling psychologists’ efforts to remain committed to researching and
promoting wellness, especially in marginalized or underserved populations
(Prilleltensky & Prilleltensky, 2003).
Counseling psychologists have demonstrated a strong desire to under-
stand multiculturalism and to promote social justice (Ivey & Collins, 2003;
Vera & Speight, 2003). Atkinson and Lowe (1995) refer to this as culturally
sensitive counseling, indicating that the counselor is cognizant of a client’s

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770 THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST / November 2005

cultural background and expresses a desire to understand how it may influ-


ence his or her experiences, affect, thoughts, and behaviors. Day (2004) sug-
gested that therapists use a culture-sensitive interview to gain knowledge
about each client’s cultural background and to go beyond physical appear-
ance. Topics included in the interview are language, family roles, sexual ori-
entation, spirituality, acculturation, and independence. The lack of visual and
nonverbal cues eliminates surface-level differences between a client and a
counselor, such as skin color, accent, age, and sex, and may decrease interfer-
ence from common stereotypes about certain cultural groups; however, ste-
reotypes may also take even more of a hold on an individual if there are no FtF
cues to disconfirm those beliefs. How online counseling may accommodate
multicultural concerns is more closely examined in the articles to follow.
Counseling psychologists’ training and emphasis on multicultural issues
prepare them to address these important research questions.
The focus on multiculturalism also opens up the related issue of the digital
divide, which is a term used to describe the inequality of the Internet. The
digital divide (Hoffman, Novak, & Schlosser, 2000) states that while every-
one, in theory, has the ability to access and use the Internet, it is currently the
more educated and affluent who do so. Counseling psychologists have taken
a lead in providing services to the disenfranchised (e.g., Brammer et al.,
1988; Pearson, 2003), and they are in a position to promote social justice and
to ensure that online modes of treatment do not exclude individuals who are
already disenfranchised or underserved. Counseling psychologists can be
advocates for individuals without a strong voice in the community as well as
extend services to populations that typically do not have easy access to
treatment.

CURRENT MAJOR CONTRIBUTIONS

Other journals, such as Journal of Clinical Psychology (Vol. 60, No. 3,


2004), Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training (Vol. 40, Nos. 1
& 2, 2003), and Journal of Clinical and Counseling Psychology (Vol. 69, No.
2, 2000), have devoted space to the topic of technological developments as
they relate to delivering mental and behavioral health services. The special
issues have not focused on online counseling through the counseling psy-
chology framework introduced in this article. For example, a special issue in
Journal of Clinical Psychology included empirical studies evaluating stand-
alone computer treatment (Anderson, Jacobs, & Rothbaum, 2004), various
computer-supported applications (Berger, 2004; Beutler & Harwood, 2004;
Cavanagh & Shapiro, 2004; Percevic, Lambert, & Kordy, 2004), a review of
definitions, debates and empirical supports (Rochlen, Zack, & Speyer,

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Mallen, Vogel / ONLINE COUNSELING 771

2004), and computers in clinical assessment (Butcher, Perry, & Hahn, 2004).
These issues offered a glimpse at some of the current research but did not
clearly define online therapy or what it means to be an online therapist, as
these terms were defined according to each author’s choice (Caspar, 2004).
By comparison, the current Major Contribution integrates what is known
about the theory, research, and practice through the philosophy and frame-
work of counseling psychology. It also offers a full analogue transcript of an
online-counseling session conducted through synchronous chat and dis-
cusses the specific implications for counseling psychologists. Other special
issues related to online counseling have been informative and useful collec-
tions of empirical research reports and essays from various authors, although
there is no unifying theme other than the fact that the articles all deal with
technology and therapy. This special issue is the first to integrate the online-
counseling literature through the lens of counseling psychology. This lens
will include the scientist-practitioner model, the history of process-outcome
research, and the unifying themes of counseling psychology, including a
focus on (a) normal or developmental challenges or tasks; (b) client strength
and resilience; (c) short-term interventions; (d) person-environment interac-
tions; (e) education and career development; (f) prevention, consultation,
psychoeducation, and wellness; and (g) multiculturalism. By linking the
available literature to counseling psychology’s unifying themes, the field’s
history of process-outcome research, and the scientist-practitioner model,
we hope to integrate and synthesize the research in a new way and to stimu-
late the reader to consider how counseling psychology can shape and define
the future practice of online counseling.
The current Major Contribution begins with a brief introductory article
that discusses the model for the subsequent two articles on research and prac-
tice issues and how the counseling psychology framework can be used to
structure the review of online-counseling literature. The next article presents
a brief history of distance-communication technologies, including the tele-
phone, and how they have been used to provide mental and behavioral health
service. It then reviews the current literature evaluating online-counseling
interventions. This article is meant to educate the reader about the current
state of online-counseling research, including what is known about the
field and the numerous unanswered questions that remain. The article also
presents strategies for conducting research related to online counseling to
address the gaps in the literature. Finally, the last article addresses the practi-
cal aspects of online counseling, including issues related to ethics, training,
supervision, technology, and competency. The authors discuss online coun-
seling’s potential strengths and limitations and present guidelines for what
type of clients and counseling psychologists may be appropriate for online
counseling. The authors also present and discuss an example of an online

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772 THE COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGIST / November 2005

synchronous-chat session to illustrate the components and skills associated


with online counseling. The article concludes with a discussion of the current
state of integration between research and practice in the field of online coun-
seling, which is consistent with the scientist-practitioner model of counsel-
ing psychology.

CONCLUSION

Counseling psychologists are trained to deliver mental and behavioral


health services but also to scientifically evaluate those services. Online coun-
seling is predicted to increase in the future (Norcross et al., 2002), and it is
important for counseling psychologists to continue to become involved in
shaping and defining this field because, for better or for worse, the services
are already being provided. As such, questions regarding the effectiveness of
these modes of treatment delivered through distance communication have
the potential to affect many counseling psychologists, whether they are pri-
marily in a research or a practice setting.

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