When the Israelite children complained about not having meat to eat, the Lord told Moses to get ready…I’ll give them meat! When Moses questioned the practicality of such a promise, God responded, “Is My arm too short?” Later, while God had physical arms, He told His disciples that those who have faith will do “even greater things [than I have done]… because I’m going to the Father” (John 14:12). There are various interpretations as to what those “greater things” might be today.
I would suggest that at least one idea pertains to the advent and Kingdom use of technology and the internet. Jesus was bound by physical realities while on earth, reaching only a few or at most a few thousand at one time. Today, while the internet has facilitated a tsunami of pornography and other sins, there remains a redeeming value in reaching the masses around the globe with help and hope for living.
When I was completing my master’s degree at Loyola in the mid-1990’s there was discussion of a “new thing” called “online counseling.” We scoffed (myself included!); questioning what good could come of counseling which was not at “arm’s reach.” At that time, there were only a few mental health practitioners charging for their online services. Today, a quick “google search” of “online therapists” produces more than 6 million hits. The Huffington Post recently called “telemedicine” the “sleeping elephant” and the “next big thing” in the delivery of medical/health care.
Distance counseling is defined by the use of technology (synchronous and/or asynchronous means) as a delivery method to assist clients to function with, or grow toward, increased wellness in their personal and professional lives (Malone, 2007). The use of synchronous technology could include: “chat,” “instant messaging,” telephone and video/voice calls (such as skype); with asynchronous means including: email, listservs, blogs, social/professional networks, websites, etc.
With the flood of online therapists and the potential for abuse, organizations such as the International Society for Mental Health Online (ISMHO), the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), and the American Counseling Association (ACA) have established ethical guidelines and principles for distance counseling. NBCC has established education and experience requirements for training and attainment of “Distance Credentialed Counselor” (DCC).
Personally, I have changed my tune since grad school. I believe there is a place for the careful and thoughtful use of technology to deliver counseling services, especially in under-served parts of the globe. I have been providing coaching services online for more than 3 years, but now have joined ISMHO, and have recently earned NBCC’s “Distance Credentialed Counselor” (DCC). Technology/internet can have redeeming value in providing various levels of membercare services for “cross-cultural Christian workers” in isolated areas. Our “counseling arm” need not be too short.
I wonder if you have ever taken advantage of online/distance counseling? And, if you haven’t, would you… if it were available? Feel free to respond below… or to my secure email account: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthony, K. and Nagel, D. (2010). Therapy online: A practical guide. LosAngeles: Sage.
Malone, J.F. (2007). ‘Understanding Distance Counseling’, in J. Malone, R. Miller, & G. Walz (eds.), Distance counseling: Expanding the counselor’s reach and impact. Ann Arbor: Counseling Outfitters.