The Impacts of Technology on Counseling
Over the years technology has been changing the world at an astonishing rate. Smartphones, social media, digital communication, and other types of technology are becoming an increasingly important role in people’s daily lives. Within the last two decades the number of households that have a computer has nearly tripled. Currently 89% of homes in the United States own computers (Neukrug, 2017, p. 82). It is no surprise that technology is shaping the field of counseling in a variety of ways.
Technology in the Office
In the past counselors and other helper professionals kept hefty patient records with highly detailed hand written notes from each client’s session. It was easy to miss details or create a record of chicken scratch in order to keep the session flowing. Recent changes in technology have reinvented the ways counselors complete daily office tasks. Computers and other forms of technology have made counselors lives easier. Technology has become useful for record keeping, diagnosis, testing and assessments, career counseling, billing, marketing/advertising and assist clients when learning new skills (Neukrug, 2017, p. 82). The development and easier access to cameras or other recording devices has made it easier for counselor to have the ability to be fully engage in sessions without having to stress about missing any important notes. With the click of a button they can easily rewatch a clients a session and take detailed notes as well as really study body language. In the future counselors will rely on technology to stay organized. A counselor’s job can be time consuming, but with the help of technology and computers their time constraints are diminished.
Technology helps with more than just office tasks it is also beneficial for training. Just like technology the field of counseling is always evolving. Counselors have the ability to use technology to stay up to date with the latest trends, news, and trainings that field has to offer. The Internet gives counselors access to web-based trainings, professional search engines, webinars, as well as allowing them to continue their education (Neukrug, 2017, p. 82). Technology has the ability to give counselors what they need to stay on top.
Online counseling is a relatively new option for obtaining help for mental health issues. Counselors are beginning to work with clients online via email or with Skype or other video communication technologies (Neukrug, 2017, p. 84). The movement towards online counseling is an effort to make seeking professional help more affordable, convenient, and stigma-free. There is even a professional organization, American Distance Counseling Association, that was formed to keep those that practicing online counseling in touch with other professionals (Neukrug, 2017, p. 84).
Online counseling is a practical way to help people with their problems. This method of mental health treatment is both helpful and therapeutic for clients. One of the biggest benefits of online counseling that has the potential to seem more anonymous than in person sessions which could provide the client with a sense of comfort to reveal problems they would to embarrassed or afraid to say in person (Neukrug, 2017, p. 83). The cost of online counseling is more financially affordable and saves people from having to commute to an office. Online counseling also provides more services to people who live in remote areas with few mental health professional (Neukrug, 2017, p. 83). People are busier today more than they ever were in the past. Seeking professional help by online counseling is more convenient for people’s schedule because it is available at times that traditional services may not be available (Neukrug, 2017, p. 83). People who choose online counseling as their method of help will find that online counselors are dedicated to their clients at all times.
Online counseling is even becoming popular to counselors and professionals due to added benefits for them. Counselors are turning towards it because they can use it to see more clients, increase their income and develop new skills. Online counseling allows counselors to work with multiple clients at a time (Neukrug, 2017, p. 83). The more clients they are able to take on and work with the more revenue they will produce. It also provides additional options for clients supervision as well as supervision of the professional (Neukrug, 2017, p. 83). Counselors are able to check in with patients daily with online counseling.
While online therapy has a number of benefits there are also many drawbacks. Using digital communication can be difficult to form therapeutic bonds with clients. For years counselors are trained to garner information not just from communicating, but also from body language and facial expressions. It lowers counselors abilities to appropriately read the client (Neukrug, 2017, p. 83). Online counseling makes it harder to form a valuable counselor client relationship. It also may not be covered by some insurance companies and technical difficulties can be problematic (Neukrug, 2017, p. 83). Online counseling can be very difficult and hard on clients. It makes it easier for clients to hide behind the screen. There are many concerns made on how counselors are able to respond to crisis situations and clients who are suicidal or homicidal (Neukrug, 2017, p. 83). Confidentiality is an important part of online counseling, but there is chance that it could be broken. Information is being transmitted online which makes privacy leaks and hacks a high concern.
Technology and social media have come along way since both were created. Social media’s popularity has skyrocketed with in the last decade and has become a part of many people’s everyday routine. The popularity of social media has grown in the professional world and has been integrated into the daily functions of counselors. They have started using it as a source of advertising and networking. Counselors can introduce themselves to potential clients while also adding to their work with existing ones. They can help existing clients by posting articles that are relevant to them giving them access to additional helpful information outside of sessions. It is also a great way for them to connect with other professionals in the field. Social media can be a great way for counselors to put themselves and their profession out there and build a group of followers. The more counselors use social media to to advertise and network the more likely people will remember them when they need help personally or referring someone else for help.
With this new technology being used comes new ethical concerns. What comes to mind most is the potential to violate confidentiality and HIPAA laws. Counselors are using technology to either save and organize clients personal information and records, using it for online counseling, or using social media to network. As stated before there is potential for privacy leaks and hacks. It is not at all surprising that the ACA has stepped into to monitor the impact that technology is having on the profession. In 2014 the ACA released the new ethics code that included a whole section dedicated to distance counseling, technology, and social media (Neukrug, 2017, p. 84). This new section in the ethics outlines how counselor should be behaving and handling the use of technology, social media, and online counseling.
No one is able to predict the future, but it sure looks like technology isn’t going anywhere. Counselor and future counselor like myself will have to worry about keeping up with the advancements and ethics that revolve around the use of technology and social media in the profession. I believe the hardest thing to tackle will be the increased use of social media. In the future I will be sure to maintain the highest level of security of personal pages as well create professional pages for clients and student to view.
Constant advances in new technologies ensure that as soon as we have a solid grasp on current technology, a new innovation is developed and changes everything. As we journey more into the world of Skype, Facebook and other social media, we have to learn to keep up with advances. Those of us who don’t will be left behind.
The Impacts of Technology on Counseling