What Training Is Required to Become an Online Therapist?

online therapy

Daniela writes: I'm curious about what steps are needed to become an online therapist/counselor. I assume that there's a degree involved, but some websites are telling me that's not the case. If you have any information on where I can go to learn more about it, I would appreciate it very much.

Online therapy, also known as e-therapy or e-counseling, is a relatively new development in mental health in which a therapist or counselor provides psychological advice and support over the Internet.

This can occur through e-mail, video conferencing, online chat or Internet phone.

Just as therapists and counselors in "real-world" settings can have a range of qualifications and licenses, online therapists can also differ considerably in their training and credentials. While some sites may promise a quick and easy path to becoming an online therapist, the fact is that the educational and training requirements to become an online therapist are exactly the same as they are for a therapist or counselor practicing in a traditional face-to-face setting. However, the actual practice of online therapy is very difficult to regulate since therapists can operate from anywhere in the world making it tough to enforce state laws regulating education, training and scope of practice.

Online therapy holds a great deal of appeal for many mental health consumers, who often view it as a convenient, economical and accessible alternative to traditional face-to-face therapy.

However, it also poses a number of unique concerns including questions about the confidentiality of client information the the appropriateness of using online therapy as a treatment method for various psychological disorders.

If you are interested in becoming an online therapist, then you should check the laws in your state determine the requirements for becoming a licensed therapist or counselor.

Learn more about who is qualified to provide mental health treatment online in this article on the qualifications of online therapists.

The Online Therapy Institute also offers a good ethical framework for the use of technology in mental health. These guidelines suggest the minimum practices and standards required for ethical online therapy:

  • Therapists should only work within the scope of their practice. In other words, an online therapist should only offer services that he or she is trained to provide.
  • Online therapists should adhere to the laws and guidelines specified by their geographic location. For example, in the United States only individuals who have received specific training and have passed the required licensing process are legally allowed to call themselves Psychologists.
  • Therapists should obtain knowledge, training and supervision in online therapy practices and techniques. This includes formal training (college or university courses), informal training (workshops and conferences) and clinical supervision (either face-to-face or online).
  • Online therapists should have a solid understanding of technology. This include both how to use the tools required to deliver psychotherapy online, but also how to ensure that client information remains private and secure.

Learn more by reading the Ethical Framework for the Use of Technology in Mental Health

You can also learn more about online therapy in the following articles:

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