‘Distance Counseling’: What is It, How Does it Work?

The electronic age is spawning a new way of delivering counseling services, one in which clients and their counselors connect with each other by telephone, e-mail or other electronic means.  Recognizing this trend, many counselors are seeking special training and certification in “counseling from a distance,” thereby expanding their repertoire of support.

A Distance Credentialed Counselor (DCC) is nationally recognized as a professional with training in best practices in distance counseling.  Distance counseling takes the best practices of traditional counseling, as well as some of its own unique methods, and adapts them for delivery to individuals via electronic means (such as telephones and computers) in order to maximize accessibility and efficiency.  Certification in this specialty affirms the practitioner’s level of knowledge and experience, as well as his or her adherence to an established set of professional standards, thereby assuring the public that the individual is qualified to provide distance counseling.

As distance methods have become more widespread and popular, the need for standards of best practice and specialized training in delivering safe and efficient services has increased as well.  This is what motivated me to take part in the Distance Counseling Training offered by ReadyMinds, which is designed to address these concerns and help counselors incorporate distance methods into their current work settings.  Having successfully completed this training – which provided intensive instruction in the use of distance techniques, with specific applications to clinical counseling – I am proud to be among the licensed professional counselors who have earned the Distance Credentialed Counselor (DCC) credential.

Telephones, cell phones and computers have emerged as invaluable tools, not only in the home and in the workplace, but in the world of counseling as well.  In the field of grief counseling specifically, distance counseling with computers has proven to be more accessible, more convenient, less costly and more comfortable for many people who are anticipating or coping with loss.  Given its 24-hour, seven-days-a-week accessibility, it eliminates the need for traveling to keep an appointment, and it is available to the individual at any hour of the day or night.

Effective distance counseling demands special skills, not only from the counselor but from the client as well.  Some folks are not comfortable with typing or expressing themselves in writing; others are not familiar with the use of computers or the dizzying array of ever-growing electronic services that it offers, such as e-mail, discussion boards, blogs, chat rooms, streaming video, podcasts and social networking on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

For their part, counselors who choose to engage in distance work with clients must be concerned not only with technical issues (hardware, software, encryption services to preserve and protect privacy, etc.) but with legal and ethical ones as well (licensure and certification, scope of practice, codes of ethics, training, knowledge and supervision, etc.) in order to deliver a standard of care to the public that is considered best practice.

The good news is that, with each passing day, both clients and counselors are becoming better acquainted with and more comfortable using computer technology, and most would agree that the benefits are well worth the challenges involved.

In January of 2000, I launched my Grief Healing website, offering valid and reliable information, comfort and support to anyone anticipating or coping with the loss of a loved one (whether that is a person or a cherished companion animal).  Four years later, I began monitoring and moderating the Grief Healing Discussion Groups, which functions as an online virtual support group for those struggling with grief.  Anyone with access to a computer can log onto the site at any hour, day or night, posting comments and questions and receiving responses from others, oftentimes within a matter of minutes. Read more about the site here: About Grief Healing Discussion Groups.

© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC

Reach Marty through her Web sites, http://www.griefhealing.com and http://www.griefhealingdiscussiongroups.com.  She blogs weekly at Grief Healing  and can be found on Twitter, LinkedInFacebook and Pinterest.

Marty Tousley

More Articles Written by Marty

As both a bereaved parent and a bereaved daughter herself, Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC has focused her practice on issues of grief, loss and transition for more than 40 years. She joined Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ as a Bereavement Counselor in 1996, and for ten years served as moderator for its innovative online grief support forums. She obtained sole ownership of the Grief Healing Discussion Groups in October, 2013, where she continues to serve as moderator. A frequent contributor to health care journals, newsletters, books and magazines, she is the author of Finding Your Way through Grief: A Guide for the First Year: Second Edition, The Final Farewell: Preparing for and Mourning the Loss of Your Pet, and Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping. She has written a number of booklets for Hospice of the Valley including Explaining the Funeral /Memorial Service to Your Children and Helping Another in Grief, as well as monthly columns, e-books and online e-mail courses for Self-Healing Expressions, addressing various aspects of grief and loss. With her special interest in grief and the human-animal bond, Marty facilitated a pet loss support group for bereaved animal lovers in Phoenix for 15 years, and now serves as consultant to the Pet Loss Support Group at Hospice of the Valley and to the Ontario Pet Loss Support Group in Ontario, Canada. Her work in pet loss and bereavement has been featured in the pages of Phoenix Magazine, The Arizona Republic, The East Valley Tribune, Arizona Veterinary News, Hospice Horizons, The Forum (ADEC Newsletter), The AAB Newsletter, Dog Fancy Magazine, Cat Fancy Magazine, Woof Magazine and Pet Life Magazine. Marty’s Grief Healing website and blog offer information, comfort and support to anyone who is anticipating or mourning the loss of a loved one, whether a person or a cherished companion animal. She is certified as a Fellow in Thanatology (Death, Dying and Bereavement) by the Association for Death Education and Counseling, as a Distance Credentialed Counselor by the Center for Credentialing and Education, and as a Clinical Specialist in Adult Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing Practice by the American Nurses Association. Marty and her husband Michael have two grown sons and four grandchildren. They spend their winters in Scottsdale, AZ and Sarasota, FL, and enjoy their summers in Traverse City, MI. Marty welcomes reader questions and comments, and can be contacted at tousleym@aol.com or through her Web sites, at GriefHealing.com, GriefHealingBlog.com, and GriefHealingDiscussionGroups.com.

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