Telephone and Online
Marriage Counseling

“Distance counseling” is the umbrella term used for getting counseling by telephone or over the internet, including online marriage counseling. Unfortunately, for both phone counseling and counseling via internet there is little research regarding marriage counseling specifically.

However, there has been a lot of research on distance treatments for depression, and it’s encouraging. In 2005 a study found 64% of depressed patients who had not responded to drug therapy were "very satisfied" with telephone therapy after 1 year compared with 48% of those in face-to-face therapy.

The telephone has been used for counseling in a variety of other areas, too - group support for cancer patients, support for caregivers of stroke survivors, bulimia, and crisis hotline services, for instance.

A survey of psychologists in 2001 discovered that slightly more than half “had used the telephone as a primary method to conduct psychotherapy sessions.”  Older and more experienced therapists used the phone more often and rated it “more highly as a way to meet patients’ needs.” [1]

As far back as 1986, research showed that clients using videoconferencing were as satisfied as if they were in face-to-face sessions. And a study in 1999 showed no significant difference in therapeutic alliance, the main ingredient in successful counseling. Studies of text-based online counseling (chat, email) have shown more mixed results.[2]

Still, it is likely that distance counseling, whether by phone or over the internet, can help with marital problems.

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[1] ^ Erika Mozer, et al., “Psychotherapeutic Intervention by Telephone,” Clinical Interventions in Aging. June, 2008.
[2] ^ Michael Mallen, et al., “Online Counseling: Reviewing the Literature From a Counseling Psychology Framework”, The Counseling Psychologist, Vol. 33 No. 6, November, 2005.