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January 3, 2003

12/31 E-Therapy?

From: Weatherford Democrat, TX - 03 Jan 2003

By: Heather Reifsnyder, Democrat Reporter

Local counselors offer services to clients via Web site

Face-to-face counseling can be intimidating for anyone. For the hearing impaired, the added element of an interpreter may pose additional stress.

A Reno, Nev. bowling league helped Judith Allen formulate a solution to this problem.

Allen, a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist who has just relocated to Weatherford, had worked with deaf and hearing impaired clients.

A client's interpreter would often be a family member, which could result in hesitancy to speak freely on the client's part.

"Sometimes this was a family member who the person was having a problem with," Allen said.

Having a paid interpreter, which potentially doubled the cost of therapy, wasn't necessarily better. Everything a client said would be "heard" by a third party.

"It was so inhibiting ... I could tell they just weren't opening up," Allen said.

In Reno, Nev., where Allen and partner Michael Robinson previously held their practice, the two were placed in a deaf bowling league.

E-mail and chat rooms became avenues for them to communicate with league members.

At that time, Allen and Robinson were already active in online counseling. Allen reasoned that expanding online counseling to a hearing-impaired clientele could make therapy more accessible for them.

She ran the notion past her bowling league.

"I talked it over with them and they thought it would be a great idea," Allen said. was subsequently developed, offering reduced prices for the hearing impaired and their family members.

"It's the first time they've had any real privacy to talk," Allen said.

Now in Weatherford, Allen and Robinson, who is a licensed social work associate, continue to offer both online and in-person counseling.

Prior to working in Reno, Allen and Robinson spent 15 years in Fort Worth as counselors.

Counseling on the Internet, however, is something they've only been doing for about five years.

"Actually, my Fort Worth clients got me started when I was going to leave," Allen said.

Clients saw e-mail as a way to stay in contact.

At the time that Allen and Robinson began doing e-therapy, they were among a group of eight to 10 counseling professionals offering online services, Allen estimated.

Now, Allen estimates that around 4,000 therapists are working online through e-mail, chat and video conferences.

E-therapy has come under much criticism over the last five or six years, Allen said. Visual cues, for example, could be missed.

She noted, however, that communication is communication, and online counseling feels more accessible to many than face-to-face counseling.

Some clients, for example, may fear a stigma associated with therapy. Others may have social phobias, or fear leaving their homes.

Allen said that in the course of online counseling, a client may need local support, in which case she can refer him or her to mental health professionals within all 50 states.

The new practice of Allen and Robinson is located at 1113 North Main St. and can be reached by telephone at (817) 594-7003.

In addition to, Allen and Robinson can be found at, or

You may contact reporter Heather Reifsnyder by e-mail at or by phone at (817) 594-7447, ext. 226.

©Weatherford Democrat 2003