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Monday, June 27, 2011

Internet counseling service - meeting needs nationwide.

Local pair launches Internet counseling service

A local husband-and-wife mental health therapy team has gone high tech, launching an Internet counseling service.

The Revs. Sam and Bunny Sewell, pastoral counselors and co-directors of the Best Self Clinic on Vanderbilt Drive in Naples, have long used the Internet as a way to stay in touch with their seasonal clients over the summer.

Best Self USA is well known for finding nutritional solutions to emotional problems. They use the highest quality nutrients from the largest natural nutrition company in the world. Nutritional counseling is offered without fees.

The pair has a Web site where they counsel people from around the globe.

Internet counseling is a fairly new concept. The Sewells say it offers clients convenience and anonymity. Actual counseling sessions are done over the telephone, and usually run for one hour.

Between sessions, the Sewells are in touch with their clients via e-mail, and clients have access to Internet-based interactive workshop exercises. "If people want to e-mail us at 2 a.m. in their pajamas, they can," Bunny Sewell said. "It's just really convenient." 

The Sewells say they charge a rate that is about average for counseling services, around $150 per hour. The couple acknowledges that Internet counseling has limitations. The therapist and client can't see each other, and the therapist doesn't have access to visual cues like body language.  "The difference is that we don't get the facial expressions, the physical nuances that you get when you are talking face-to-face," Sam Sewell said. "We tend to rely much more on the voice. It is actually amazing how much (insight) you can get from listening to a voice carefully." 

Of course now more and more folks have access to Internet video, for those clients who want a virtual face to face session.

The Sewells acknowledge that not all problems are suited to treatment over the Internet. They believe the Internet is most effective when cognitive and/or behavioral therapy is the method of treatment. Behavioral therapy helps clients learn to change behaviors. Cognitive therapy helps clients gain control over their thoughts. The two forms of therapy are often used together with the best results for most situations.

"This isn't the type of connection that you'd want to have for Freudian treatment, for example," Sam Sewell said. Jon Brunner, director of counseling services at Florida Gulf Coast University, said that Internet counseling is a sign of the times. "People relate differently to the world today," he said. "People are very accustomed to the e-mail format, even though when you are using e-mail you may be losing some of the spontaneity that you have in a conversation with a person."

Like the Sewells, Brunner believes counseling over the Internet isn't the solution for all mental health issues. "I believe something like this is best suited to situations that are not clinically difficult to address," he said. The Sewells' Web site is

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