I receive a lot of questions about email or text-based counseling and how exactly therapy occurs via this medium. Email counseling has become the most popular medium for therapy that I offer via my practice with almost 50% of my clients utilizing email counseling by itself or in combination with video and phone sessions.
Are email messages secure and safe?
As licensed clinicians, it is essential that we do everything that we can to protect the confidential information exchanged by our clients in email sessions as well as their personal health information (PHI). In order to accomplish this, I utilize an encrypted web-based portal which has been tested and endorsed by several reputable telemental health research organizations due to its security and encryption benefits. These email messages are password protected within the portal on both client and counselor end. Some of these encrypted email portals are free or low cost.
Via these email messages, I am able to conduct a needs assessment, establish goals, and share ideas, strategies and homework with my clients. Email counseling is self-paced. The client can take as little or as long as he or she needs to process through information, complete homework assignments, and share feedback. Each of these email exchanges serves as a mini counseling session. They tend to be very conversational and educational. My clients often comment about how much they enjoy taking their time to process through my questions and then think through their responses. There is no rush or face-to-face pressure. Instead, they can take as long as they need. Clients also enjoy the fact that the emails are tangible and present for them to review in the future. The information that we exchange is theirs to keep!
Email counseling is also convenient.
Clients are able to write to me whenever it is convenient for their schedules. Perhaps they have time in the early morning, over a lunch break, or late at night. I guarantee to respond to client messages within 24 hours Monday through Friday in order to set clear boundaries and expectations with my clients. Email-based counseling is certainly not a 24-hour crisis service.
How long does email counseling take?
Through my research and data collection over the last 3.5 years, most email clients participate in services for 64 days before they have worked through their present challenges and feel ready to tackle things independently. However, this can vary widely depending upon client preference and needs. Some clients wrap up things efficiently in one week while others maintain a monthly email plan for years in order to have regular feedback and support.
I offer weekly and monthly packages to meet client needs. Many individuals like to start with one week of email service as it allows them to try out the email program to see if it is a good fit for them without any long term commitment or cost. Then, they often transition over to a monthly package as they determine it is a good medium of therapy for them and as we dig deeper into the topics that brought them to counseling.
Are you interested in starting your own online practice? Thinking about adding online services to your existing practice? Wendy Galyen, LCSW and BC-TMH, is the founder of Thrive for Life Online Counseling, solely private pay and entirely online private practice in Indiana. Wendy provides customized consultation services for clinicians who are starting online counseling practices. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.