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Roddy disputes the notion that the Web is the “perfect medium” for reaching depressed students

October 21, 2003


While some universities are giving depressed students the option of pursuing mental health counseling anonymously on the Web, Dr. Lowell G. Roddy, assistant director of counseling, testing and career services, disagrees with the idea that the Internet is the perfect medium for reaching college-age students in need of counseling.
October 21, 2003


While some universities are giving depressed students the option of pursuing mental health counseling anonymously on the Web, Dr. Lowell G. Roddy, assistant director of counseling, testing and career services, disagrees with the idea that the Internet is the “perfect medium” for reaching college-age students in need of counseling.

“We do not engage in Internet counseling for several reasons,” he says. “First, a significant amount of information is conveyed via nonverbal communication, which is lost when using the Internet. Second, there is no way to guarantee confidentiality when using the Internet, whether in chat rooms or e-mail.”

In addition, Roddy cites two major problems with anonymous counseling: the counselor's legal requirement to protect clients from harm to themselves, which cannot happen if the client is unknown to the counselor, and the matter of trust between the client and the counselor, which “becomes a foundation for meaningful work.”

“If the student has no trust in the system or the counselor, it seems unlikely that counseling will be beneficial,” he says. “Every effort is made to protect the identity of students who come to the counseling center for assistance.”

Barbara Blackston, director of counseling, testing and career services, adds, “If we viewed counseling as giving advice, then the Internet would be a great way to do it, because you don't need to have a relationship to give advice. Counseling, however, is the process of assisting students in developing solutions for their problems, and many times it is the relationship that heals.”

According to Roddy and Blackston, APSU attempts to reach depressed students through faculty, staff and student referrals; workshops; classroom presentations; information sessions for students and/or parents during Transitions programs; brochures and printed media.
Rebecca Mackey