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Art therapy on-line : a participatory action study of distance counselling issues Collie, Katharine Rosemary

Abstract

On-line counselling shows promise for making mental health care more available to people in remote locations, people with mobility limitations, and people who are home-based or homebound. In response to the lack of research in this burgeoning new area, Davor Cubranic and I conducted an exploratory, participatory study of on-line counselling in which we used computer-supported distance art therapy as a model. The project was a multidisciplinary collaboration between researchers in counselling psychology and computer science that included 10 additional co-researchers from the community. The three goals of the study were: (a) to develop a computer system specifically for on-line counselling, (b) to evaluate the system for the purpose of bringing forth key issues relating to on-line counselling, and (c) to conduct a cross-disciplinary sharing of knowledge and ideas. The system we developed is an innovative alternative to the usual forms of on-line counselling (e-mail and videoconferencing). It supports audio and visual communication, and yet is suitable for standard home computer systems with dial-in access to the Internet. The study was a pilot project designed in part to put research needs into sharper focus. The issues identified as important during the study were not the ones highlighted in previous literature. Rather, they were: (a) problems associated with technical failure, (b) relevance for people with disabilities, (c) the need for clear communication protocols, (d) lack of shared physical presence, and (e) increased sense of privacy and protection from pre-judgment.

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