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Internet Counseling

We have invested several hundred hours chatting online with depressed and suicidal people. Most of this time was with adolescents who are used to being on the computer and who are very quick to open up and share their feelings.

There is a tremendous opportunity for helping people, especially teenagers who often feel trapped and very alone. For them the Internet is sometimes literally their lifeline. They are used to chatting and emails and often prefer this type of communication. For example, a school counselor told us that a student emailed him and asked if they could email each other about some problems she was having at home. When he told her he preferred that she come in and see him face to face, she stopped talking to him altogether. This kind of situation could be avoided if the Internet was used as another counseling tool. Perhaps later the girl would have felt more comfortable talking to the counselor in person.

We believe Internet counseling will grow quickly in the future. Here is a list of some of the advantages to Internet counseling and a list of suggestions based on our experiences.

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If you are interested in being trained on our approach to helping teens or if you would like to receive online counseling from us, please contact us.

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Sentence Completion Example With A Teen

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Advantages to Internet Counseling

- Anonymous

- Reach people who are otherwise inaccessible

- Reach young people right in their homes

- In real time. This means young people can tell you what their parents are saying and doing as they say it and do it.

- Young people are much more articulate when they write than when they talk

- 24 hour

- Client can't see your face

- On some chat software you can see if they are typing

- You can save and copy the files for later review, documentation

- You can take back what you start to say before you hit the enter key

- You can quickly see who is doing more of the talking

- You can send them links to online resources. Have them to exercises online.

Suggestions

User very short replies, lots of acknowledgement -- yeah, wow, aw, that sux.

Express a lot of emotion -- No way! You have got to be kidding! Cool!

Use short questions How come? Really?

Use their language. Here is a list of some chat abbreviations

Try to use chat software which lets you see if the other person is typing. (MSN for example.) Wait 10 seconds before responding to see if they start to type some more.

If you start type and then they do, stop and let them continue.

Be sure they have a lot more typing on the screen than you.

Some Internet Chat Codes

u = you

ur = your

brb = brb

lol = laugh out loud

bf/gf = boyfriend/girlfriend

g2g = got to go

omg = oh my god

omng = oh my non-existent god

kwim? = know what i mean?

 
Online Exercises

Ask them to go to http://eqi.org/needs and list how much they feel of each emotional need.

See example below

 
Here is an actual example from an anorexic, suicidal 15 year old, who called herself "Tearful Angel" that day

volunteer says:
did u leave that night i talked to u last
Tearful Angel sagt:
*nods* i just left for a few days. I went to stay with some friends
volunteer says:
how was that
Tearful Angel sagt:
it was great. I was so happy to get outta here for a few days. i could eat as little as i wanted, i didnt have ppl telling me i was fat, i could hang out with my friends whenever i wanted, it was the best
volunteer says:
sounds good
volunteer says:
y did u come back
Tearful Angel sagt:
*shrugs* i dunno. I couldnt hurt my grandparents. they would've been so sad if i hadn't come back. i cant dissappoint them.
Tearful Angel sagt:
im supposed to be the perfect kid in our family
volunteer says:
hmm
volunteer says:
is that kind of a burden
Tearful Angel sagt:
yeah...
volunteer says:
have u been feelign suicidal lately?
Tearful Angel sagt:
only a little bit. i dont think i could actually kill myself, though. i'm too scared to. I'm slowly dying anyways.
volunteer says:
how do u mean slowly dying
Tearful Angel sagt:
i've been really sick for just over a month now. I've suffered from anorexia since i was 8 and I'm starting to lose the battle. It's like I can feel that the end is near. I barely have enough energy to do anything anymore. My skin is a weird shade of grey, my hair is getting really thin, I never even feel hungry anymore, I can't eat even if I try to, I've been passing out a lot. I'm in constant pain

Tearful Angel sagt:
I can tell that the end is near
volunteer says:
hmm
volunteer says:
doesnt sound good
volunteer says:
do u still think u are overweight
Tearful Angel sagt:
yes
Tearful Angel sagt:
i weigh 89.5 pounds
volunteer says:
how tall r u
Tearful Angel sagt:
5'6'' or 5'7'' i think
volunteer says:
hmmm
Tearful Angel sagt:
?
volunteer says:
sounds pretty tall for that weight to me!
Tearful Angel sagt:
*shrugs* i still feel fat

accepted 0
because people hate me. Everyone (especially my parents) tell me how much of a freak I am. I know I'll never fit in
volunteer says:
k keep going
Tearful Angel sagt:
approved of 0
pretty much the same reason. people don't want me around. my friends' parents all hate me because im too "slutty" and im a "bad influence"

Tearful Angel sagt:
capable 0
I can't do anything right.
challenged 5
clear (not confused) 5
competent 2
confident 0
developed 0

Tearful Angel sagt:
oops
Tearful Angel sagt:
challenged 5
life itself is a challenge for me.
clear (not confused) 5
i know whats goin on in my mind
competent 2
again, I cant do anything right
confident 0
(self-explanatory)
developed 0
i feel like a little kid trapped in a teen's body

volunteer says:
k
volunteer says:
keep going if u want
Tearful Angel sagt:
empowered 0
once again i feel like i cant do anything
focused 0
i can never really concentrate on anything. im not sure what i want in life
free 0
self-explanatory
fulfilled 0
i feel like there should be more to life

volunteer says:
k
Tearful Angel sagt:
i hafta stop for now. sorry

Tearful Angel sagt:

volunteer says:
how come u have to stop
Tearful Angel sagt:
my gramma wants the computer
volunteer says:
she uses a computer!
volunteer says:
lol
Tearful Angel sagt:
yup
volunteer says:
how old is she
Tearful Angel sagt:
73
Tearful Angel sagt:
i think
volunteer says:
what does she do with it
Tearful Angel sagt:
she gambles online
volunteer says:
lo
volunteer says:
l
volunteer says:
u are kidding
Tearful Angel sagt:
no
Tearful Angel sagt:
im serious
volunteer says:
get me the name of the site if u can
Tearful Angel sagt:
i'll try to l8r, k?
Tearful Angel sagt:
bye
volunteer says:
k
volunteer says:
bye
volunteer says:
thanks again

 
Examples of real time information

Teen 1: My mom just came home
Steve: Tell me the first thing she says
Teen: "Why aren't the dishes done?"

Teen 2: Ow!
Steve: What?
Teen 3: My mom just hit me on the head!

Teen 4: My dad just came home
Steve: Tell me the first thing he says to you.
Teen 5: Okay. He just said, "Are you going to spend your whole life in front of that computer?"

Teen 6: I am so outta here
Steve: What do u mean?
Teen 6: I am leaving.
Steve: Where r u going to go?
Teen 6: *shrugs*
Steve: I am worried about u
Teen 6: I will find somewhere
Steve: Have u called one of those crisis lines?
Teen 6: no
Teen 6: i cant
Teen 6: im not allowed on the phone
Teen 6: i g2g, my grandmother wants to use the computer
Steve: ur grandmother! how old is she?
Teen 6: 70
Steve: what does she do on the computer?
Teen 6: she gambles online