The ACA Code of Ethics (2014) mandates that counselors warn clients regarding the limits of confidentiality when using telephone or online counseling (ACA, 2014). However, when a client calls a hotline to speak to a worker, they are essentially giving informed consent. With that said, telephone workers work on the basis of anonymity, except in cases where the client threatens to commit suicide. In the event that they are talking to a client that is in danger of themselves or others, they must notify authorities so that the client receives the help that they need. Most telephone hotlines are able to trace callers’ ids, so they can get a general idea of where the individual is located. Ingram, Ringle, Hallstrom, Schill, Gohr, &Thompson (2007) acknowledges that crisis workers receive ethics training to prepare them for taking calls (Ingram, Ringle, Hallstrom, Schill, Gore, & Thompson, 2007). It is important that they are prepared for the ethical dilemmas that can arise when working in this field.
Telephone and online counseling is very flexible in that they can be done in numerous places (James & Gilliland, 2013). Whenever there is cell phone or internet reception, distance counseling is a viable option for some individuals. Clients can feel free to disclose more personal information because of the anonymity that it allows. This can be a positive aspect for clients that believe in keeping personal issues private. Another aspect is that it is cheap to operate a telephone hotline. James (2013) declares, “Crisis lines are inexpensive-for both the client and the community” (p.120). Considering cheap financial resources is key as sometimes-adequate resources can be limited. Crisis hotlines also avoid dependency issues because the client usually gets a different worker whenever they call the hotline. It also lessens the likelihood of counselors getting too attached to their clients.
However, there are some disadvantages to telephone and online counseling. It is difficult to assess tone and facial expressions. Emoticons are a poor substitution for picking up facial expression. Another negative is the potential for prank callers. It can be very annoying to deal with them, especially if they call on a regular basis. Confidentiality is not guaranteed in regards to distance counseling. There is always a possibility that someone near the client could be listening to the conversation, or someone could hack into the conversation online.
N.A. (2014). ACA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from: http://www.counseling.org/resources/aca-code-of-ethics.pdf
Ingram, S.,& Ringle, J., & Hallstrom, K., & Schill, D., & Gohr, V., & Thompson, R. (2007) Coping with crisis across the lifespan: The role of a telephone hotline. Retrieved from: Capella