In situations where it is difficult to verify the identity of the Internet client, steps are taken to address impostor concerns, such as by using code words or numbers.
Encryption methods should be used whenever possible. If encryption is not made available to clients, clients must be informed of the potential hazards of unsecured communication on the Internet. Hazards may include unauthorized monitoring of transmissions and/or records of Internet counseling sessions.
Session data may include Internet counselor/Internet client e-mail, test results, audio/video session recordings, session notes, and counselor/supervisor communications. The likelihood of electronic sessions being preserved is greater because of the ease and decreased costs involved in recording. Thus, its potential use in supervision, research, and legal proceedings increases.
Because of the relative ease with which e-mail messages can be forwarded to formal and casual referral sources, Internet counselors must work to insure the confidentiality of the Internet counseling relationship.
Legal Considerations, Licensure, and Certification
Local, state, provincial, and national statutes as well as codes of professional membership organizations, professional certifying bodies, and state or provincial licensing boards need to be reviewed. Also, as varying state rules and opinions exist on questions pertaining to whether Internet counseling takes place in the Internet counselor’s location or the Internet client’s location, it is important to review codes in the counselor’s home jurisdiction as well as the client’s. Internet counselors also consider carefully local customs regarding age of consent and child abuse reporting, and liability insurance policies need to be reviewed to determine if the practice of Internet counseling is a covered activity.
Diana Smith, PhD, LPC-MH owns and operates Serenity Mental Health Services and is licensed by the National Board of Certified Counselors. License number is LPC-MH2025 and she follows the ethical guidelines described by the NBCC found at their web site www.nbcc.org/webethics2. Diana is a member of the National Board for Certified Counselors, Certification Number 43911. In addition, she is also a member of the American Counseling Association, Member ID# 5140627. Online counseling can help you right now. Research has made it clear that this manner of offering therapy is effective and those who’ve experienced it have said they would seek it out again.