Working Group Internet Therapy

EAP and Online Psychotherapy

Many psychotherapists and counsellors practice online – and take for granted the idea that it is ‘different’ – but ‘more or less the same’ as face-to-face therapy. But that is a big error – and one which can be damaging – even dangerous – to both client and therapist.

But what is very worrying is that online psychotherapy is almost totally unregulated.

There are many advantages to online therapy:

  • Some client groups are proven to work better online (e.g. where ‘shame’ is an issue);
  • Some people cannot get to see a therapist
  • If they live in a place with a different language
  • If they are physically unable to leave their home (illness or agoraphobia)
  • If they live a long way from their therapist or are travelling
    • Technically, people respond differently:
    • They are often disinhibited and lower defences/resistances quickly
      • We meet them in ‘their’ space – not ‘ours’
        • They have much more control of the therapy

Online therapy takes place via video-conferencing (like ‘Skype’ – but never Skype!), email, text-chat – or by avatar programmes.

But there are problems and dangers: around legal issues, technical security and confidentiality, assessing people for therapy, managing risk, contracting, linking with mental health services etc.

The EAP is looking at this and we intend to develop practice guidelines for practitioners, for trainings to include this in basic qualifications – and for advanced courses in online-therapy. And EAP – together with ACTO – is about to offer a database if information about working online internationally.

Adrian M. Rhodes


Psychotherapists are required to engage in extensive personal psychotherapy during their training which is up to seven years duration. Psychotherapists usually have a first degree followed by a professional, highly specialised, theoretical and clinical training which includes research methodology and continuous professional development. The EAP promotes the recognition of common standards of training throughout Europe, and will ensure their mobility across member states.