Characteristics of E-Therapy Web Sites
J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67(9):1435-1440
© Copyright 2014 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.
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Objective: This study examined what a
person seeking e-therapy services might find on the
Internet, and how e-therapy Web sites characterize their services and providers.
Method: Using the search engines Google
and Yahoo!, we obtained a list of 55 e-therapy Web sites, which we reviewed from May 2005 to
September 2005. We used the search terms online
counseling, online therapy, and
e-therapy. We reviewed the Web sites' content for data in 7
categories: description of services, terminology
for providers, providers' qualifications,
terminology for service users, characteristics of clients,
information for individuals in crisis, and
information about confidentiality and security.
Results: There was a wide range in the
Web sites we accessed. Web sites often contained
confusing information about the nature of the
service offered and did not always specify
qualifications of providers. Some providers did not
appear qualified to provide the services the Web
sites advertised. Other sites offered Internet-based
services of legitimate mental health
professionals. Most sites referred to users as clients
rather than patients, and some sites specified criteria
that would render prospective clients ineligible to
receive services (e.g., suicidality). Some Web
sites excluded individuals with specific
diagnoses. Web sites were not generally proactive about
providing resources for visitors in crisis. Less
than half of the Web sites disclosed limits to client
data security and confidentiality.
Conclusion: Experiences with e-therapy
might influence a patient's attitude toward
traditional psychotherapy. With the wide variety in
e-therapy services that are searchable on the Web,
clinicians may want to be more aware of what their
patients might encounter online.