Cybertherapy is a process designed to produce
behavioral changes via the Internet, using electronic media.
The traditional form of the psychotherapeutic
process of change is by means of a face-to-face contact between the
therapist or agent of change and the client or patient. This
contact is governed by professional ethical and legal norms in effect
for each professional group in each country.
The face-to-face contact allows both the therapist
and the client or patient the possibility of making use of the various
senses in the process of the interaction. As an example, in the
face-to-face process, the participants not only mutually see and hear
one another, but can also observe in detail, among others, body
movements or gestures, the intonation and tone of the verbal content
and, in general, everything that is implied and communicated by
Of course, there are circumstances in which the
face-to-face therapeutic process is not possible. One of the most
successful examples constitutes that of the crisis intervention
telephone hotlines. This is a modality that has saved many lives
in danger, for example, of a suicide attempt in progress.
In other more common cases, many people initially
search for information or guidance about a situation or problem, more
than for a therapeutic process. This is precisely why it is
important that those who respond to these requests for information be
persons who are professionally prepared and qualified.
The psychotherapeutic modality that we call
cybertherapy has become popular precisely because of the cultural
revolution that has implied the development of cybernetics and the
Internet in the last decades. The free access to information has
made many people to trust the media for the search for answers to
personal concerns of all types.
Precisely the high cost of the face-to-face
individualized attention and all that is implied in mechanical terms by
the selection of the therapist, making the appointment, and attending
it, have made many people to prefer the additional level of security
afforded by the distance involved, and of being behind the "protection"
of a screen or monitor.
In fact, apparently, even in interpersonal and
love relationships, for some people communicating in this fashion is
easier than when face-to-face. For others, the dependence on the
cybernetic media is part of their lifestyle, and constitutes a tool with
which he or she tries to satisfy all needs.
The cybertherapeutic process may occur via e-mails
or instant messaging. In the case of the e-mails, the emphasis is
on the written communication, while with instant messages, in addition
to the written media, the visualization of the participants may coexist
with the use of audiovisual cameras adapted to the computational system.
In any event, one of the main differences is in
the temporality of the process carried out. In the e-mails, the
exchange is generally carried out at different times, while with instant
messaging the contact is in real time, that is, as part of a dialog
occurring at that precise moment.
Cybertherapy usually starts with a search in the Internet for
information about a concern or problem. It is possible that the
results found may make the person decide, if he or she has not already
done so, that help or more personalized information is required.
The option is then to visit some websites, like this one of the
Instituto Dr. Pacheco de
idpp_eng\information\information.htm) or the one by
among many others, who offer guidance or specialized counseling for
free, in a limited manner.
If desired, the person may decide to seek
therapeutic services rather than limited information, and that instead
of face-to-face, to prefer receiving these via the Internet, that is,
cybertherapy. Once again, proceeds to search for websites
providing these services and thus begins the processing of information
found about the services offered, the academic background and
credentials of the cybertherapist, as well as the costs involved, and
forms of payment.
To make this important decision, we recommend to
choose carefully your cybertherapist, and to clarify in advance the
reaches of the service, how it will be carried out, and its costs.
Among the elements to be considered is the express
declaration and in writing that the applicable ethical and legal
professional standards are adhered to, and the manner in which to
confirm this in the Internet.
Additionally, it is convenient that the
cybertherapist indicates in his or her website the adherence to the
requirements advanced by specialized groups in this area, such as the
International Society for Mental Health on Line (http://www.ismho.org/),
and the Internet Healthcare Coalition (http://www.ihealthcoalition.org/),
as well as the strict adherence to standards such as those of the
Ética y Disciplina of the
Dominicano de Psicólogos (http://www.idpp.org/idpp_bil/codopsi/codopsi4.htm),
of the Código Deontológico del Psicólogo of the Colegio Oficial de
Psicólogos of Spain (http://www.cop.es/cop/codigo.htm),
and to what is expressed in the position of the Ethics Committee of the
American Psychological Association
Cybertherapy can be recognized as a useful instrument to help people who
want to modify a behavior or improve some aspect of their lives, as long
as the ethical and legal standards which apply are adhered to. To
make sure that your experience with this therapeutic approach is
effective, efficient, and that it fulfills your expectations, we advise
you to follow the suggestions herein indicated.
The Instituto Dr. Pacheco de
Psicología is dedicated to helping others...
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