Is this psychotherapy?
No. But it definitely can be therapeutic.
Naturally, everyone wants to compare e-therapy to traditional psychotherapy. If you can talk to a therapist online, will traditional psychotherapy become obsolete? Absolutely not. Therapists can provide only a small amount of help via the Internet an amount so small that everyone, without exception, agrees that these online interactions are not therapy.
Many people find it very helpful to talk with a therapist online. But it will never replace the unique experience of forming a continuing face-to-face relationship with a psychotherapist. Full-fledged therapy requires physical presence for the therapist to be able to do his/her job.
So if this isnt therapy, why do therapists offer it?
Because it helps. Even though this is not therapy, quite obviously it can be therapeutic. Therapists cant provide full-fledged psychotherapy online, but they can provide something that is, apparently, very helpful.
Many people have been helped, some profoundly, by talking with therapists over the Internet. How it helps, what is the best way to help, and how you can be assured of getting appropriate help, are matters still being explored. I for one am reassured by the fact that the mental health community is asking itself these responsible questions about ethics and efficacy.
You will find that even the most dedicated and visionary e-therapists hope that, after working with them, if it is necessary and if it is possible, you will go on to pursue the tried-and-true, in-the-flesh kind of psychotherapy with a therapist near you. (Here's an article which tells you how to get started seeing a therapist face-to-face.)
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