Let’s face it. It’s difficult to find pleasure as sublime and satisfying as helping another person. This is especially true when that help involves alleviating pain and suffering. So it only follows that there are few lines of work as satisfying as online mental health counseling. But as with so many things in life- it isn’t free.
Online Mental Health Counseling many times can engender a confrontation regarding ethical issues that can put a strain on the precious clinical relationship between therapist and client. Whereas this can take any number of forms, some of the most common are:
Values: Few things can undermine a successful therapy session more than challenging religious or cultural beliefs. It is imperative that the therapist understand that to be of assistance, professionalism requires that he/she must strive to understand the client’s religious and cultural orientation free and clear of discrimination. In the event of a conflict, referral to another therapist may be the only solution.
Confidentiality: It is well known that essential to the therapeutic relationship is the trust which is contingent on the therapist never compromising the client’s confidence. This includes information requests friends and family. Often the client feels there is no one to trust but the therapist, which increases the therapist’s obligation to keep a tight lip.
Boundaries: For many online mental health therapists, the most challenging challenge lay in the area of establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries. Often the lines of empathy are eroded as the therapist becomes the client’s friend. While this may seem to be the kind and generous thing to do, it invariably hampers if not destroys the relationship.
Sometimes brick and mortar mental health therapists working with their patients online will find that their client can’t extricate himself/herself from a caustic relationship or detrimental situation as a result of patterns established and ingrained over time. Assisting clients to become detached from these unhealthy patterns can at times be daunting.
To further complicate matters, often the most successful path is to strike a happy medium by partially maintaining the situation as removal cold turkey could be too traumatic or is just too painful. Understanding the need for this happy medium as well as finessing a constructive course of action often requires deep insight and sensitivity.
But at the end of the day, perhaps the biggest hurdle for online mental health therapists is being subjected to the client’s emotional pain. Effective mental health counseling requires helping the client to navigate through painful emotions. But therapists also know that “no pain no gain” and therefore must empower the client with the courage needed to endure the pain.
It is imperative that clinicians performing mental counseling online acknowledge the emotional drain they are experiencing. And if not addressed, they are vulnerable to “burnout” from which it is difficult to recover. The wise therapist will seek out those strategies and tactics that could be helpful to prevent this dreaded burnout from ever becoming a reality.