Cyber Counseling: Illuminating Benefits and Challenges
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The ascendancy of the cyber world has led to increasing client demand for online counseling and a dramatic growth in cyber counseling, a trend that is expected to continue in the coming years. Recognizing the need for social workers who can competently utilize communication technology in their practice, we developed a 4-year pilot project as a practicum in which second year MSW students provided cyber and face-to-face counseling to undergraduate students who presented with a range of issues. The purpose of this paper is to report on an exploratory study which examined the perspectives of the student interns and the undergraduate student clients, in order to illuminate benefits and challenges that emerged. Twenty-four MSW student interns and 34 undergraduate student clients who utilized cyber counseling on at least one occasion participated in interviews that were transcribed and analyzed. Both the MSW interns and the undergraduate student clients reported that cyber counseling provided practical and relational value and that the written aspect was particularly beneficial in facilitating clients’ disclosure of sensitive issues. Different perspectives about maintaining connection in the relationship emerged, suggesting challenges for social workers when learning to use cyber in counseling.
KeywordsCyber counseling practicum Innovative practicum Social work education Social work practicum
This study was approved by the Health Sciences Research Ethics Board, University of Toronto.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.
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