By Liz Nakazawa, published on March 1, 1999 - last reviewed on January 10, 2005
The convenience of the Internet allows us to shop at 3 A.M. and
read breaking news before it hits the papers. Now, it lets you receive
counseling from the comfort of your very own couch.
Russell Razzaque, M.D., a British psychiatrist and one of a growing
number of therapists offering analysis on-line, launched what's billed as
"the Internet's first and only source for one-to-one psychiatric therapy"
in December. His Web site, CyberAnalysis (www.cyberanalysis.com), offers
patients individualized traditional psychotherapy. Razzaque's
relationship with each patient takes place in the medium of the client's
choice--chat room, phone or videoconference. He also sends clients
e-mails explaining analytic techniques for them to try away from the
E-mail therapy may seem impersonal, but Razzaque feels that the
approach puts results in his clients' hands. "This medium enables me to
teach them to analyze themselves," he says. "I can go directly into their
homes and help them."
But not everyone is gung-ho about on-line therapy. John Grohol,
Psy.D., director of Mental Health Net (www.john email@example.com), a Web
site offering information about Internet therapy issues, wonders how
analysts can diagnose mental disorders without crucial factors like
face-to-face contact. "Without non-verbal cues, it's harder to read
clients," says Grohol. "I think on-line approaches work better for mild
problems or advice."
Clinical social workers Tim Hagge, M.S.W, and Susan Captein,
M.S.W., agree. They offer an e-mail service for students at Oregon's
Portland State University to help them cope with "relationships and
leaving home," says Hagge. But Therapymail, as it's called, offers more
advice than bona fide analysis, Hagge admits. "E-mail isn't a rich enough
interaction," he says. "Deep-seated problems don't come to the surface
well enough." More useful, says Grohol, are the 200 to 300 electronic
newsgroups, bulletin boards and mailing lists that provide informal ways
to share ideas and support about psychological issues.