Compared to traditional therapy, online counseling and e-therapy is one of the fastest growing industries throughout the world, according to a summer 2009 article in EAP Digest. Many clients have found this mode of counseling effective, but there may be many questions surrounding legality and feasibility for the counselor who wishes to set up an online business.
Licensing and Certfications
Complete an educational program that leads to a Bachelor's degree or higher in counseling. Verify that the school you attend is accredited by one of the major counseling accreditation bodies, such as the Commission on the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Commission on Rehabilitation Education (CORE).
Obtain a license in the state in which you intend to practice. Examples of counselor licensure include the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and the (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor). There are usually educational and counseling supervision requirements that need to be completed before a state will license a counselor; these can be found by contacting your state's counselor licensure board.
Obtain certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors. This is not a license to practice in your state, but a certification that says you have met national standards as a professional counselor.
Creating Your Business
Register a business name for your counseling business and consider setting up a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). Both of these tasks can be done through your state's department, often times through the Secretary of State.
Create your counseling website by purchasing a domain name, setting up web hosting, and designing your site. Devote a portion of your site to the informed consent of clients, listing the benefits, limitations, and responsibilities that ensues from the nature of online counseling.
Ensure privacy and confidentiality wherever possible on your website by using secure and encrypted forms, password-protected pages, and secure web meeting programs. Seek technical assistance if required.
Make available to your online counseling clients as many forms of electronic communication as possible. For example, set up a professional email address for correspondence, web meeting programs that include audio and visual elements, telephone meeting arrangements, as well as instant messenger programs.
Review the American Counseling Association (ACA) counselor responsibilities on technology applications in Section A.12. of the ACA Code of Ethics to ensure that your counseling website complies.
Obtain counselor liability insurance. Make sure that your policy includes online counseling coverage.
Review the laws and regulations often that pertain to counseling across state borders if you obtain clients that cross state lines.