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Online Counseling - Why You Have to Reveal Your Identity

Online counseling sometimes attracts people that have a need or desire extreme for anonymity and who are reluctant to make in-person visits to a counselor or mental health worker, in part at least, out of privacy concerns.

People with an extreme desire for confidentiality might hope for completely anonymous online therapy, accomplished by withholding identity information and by using a pseudonym for correspondence.

Unfortunately, ethical guidelines, in most cases, prohibit licensed counselors, therapists and psychologists from consenting to provide therapeutic services without knowing the identity and location of the client. Online counseling does still provide increased privacy, as no one will see you in a therapist's waiting room, but it cannot provide complete anonymity. Thankfully though, ethics guidelines that demand that you reveal your identity also prohibit therapists and counselors from revealing your information, in all but very extreme situations.

Why Do I Have to Prove My Identity?

  1. You need to prove that you are an adult – Ethical guidelines prohibit counseling to minors without parental consent. Your counselor will need to know that you are 18 or older and if you are younger than 18, she will need written consent from a parent or guardian before agreeing to provide counseling.
  2. Your therapist needs to know who and where you are in case of crisis situations – Counselors are bound by client confidentiality codes except in extreme cases, such as when a client is in danger of harming himself or others. In emergencies, a therapist must be able to alert relevant authorities and provide contact information. This is required by law.
  3. Therapists are, in some cases, bound by the counseling laws and regulations of the client' state, and not the practitioner's. To ensure compliance with the law, a therapist needs to know your jurisdiction.

You will likely need to provide a driver's license number or other document as proof of identity as well as a full name, home address and contact phone number.

People in crisis who are unwilling to divulge their identity can still access counseling services via crisis hotlines and crisis chat sessions, which do not demand the same identity verification as formal counseling

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