Pros and Cons
The ethics statement about psychotherapy online prepared by the International Organisation for Mental Health Online advises that therapists need to inform clients of the pros and cons of working online. I endorse this idea, and quote their statements here in full:
automatically having a record of communications to refer to later
c. Potential benefits
The client should be informed of the potential benefits of receiving mental health services online. This includes both the circumstances in which the counselor considers online mental health services appropriate and the possible advantages of providing those services online. For example, the potential benefits of email may include: (1) being able to send and receive messages at any time of day or night; (2) never having to leave messages with intermediaries; (3) avoiding not only intermediaries, but also voice mail and "telephone tag"; (4) being able to take as long as one wants to compose, and having the opportunity to reflect upon, one's messages; (5) automatically having a record of communications to refer to later; and (6) feeling less inhibited than in person.
d. Potential risks
The client should be informed of the potential risks of receiving mental health services online. For example, the potential risks of email may include (1) messages not being received and (2) confidentiality being breached. Emails could fail to be received if they are sent to the wrong address (which might also breach of confidentiality) or if they just are not noticed by the counselor. Confidentiality could be breached in transit by hackers or Internet service providers or at either end by others with access to the email account or the computer. Extra safeguards should be considered when the computer is shared by family members, students, library patrons, etc.