New Distance Counseling Consent

Cheat Lake Elementary

Kaitlin Fetty NBCC, Provisional LPC

School Counselor, Provisional Licensed Counselor

M.A. Counseling, B.A Psychology


Website: Click Resources under Guidance


American School Counseling Association Ethical Considerations for Virtual School Counseling

The School Counselor and Virtual School Counseling (Adopted 2017)

“Counselors understand the additional concerns related to the use of distance counseling, technology and social media and make every attempt to protect confidentiality and meet any legal and ethical requirements for the use of such resources” (Corey, Schneider Corey, Corey & Callanan, 2015, p. 545). School counselors should ensure they continue to follow ethical standards in their virtual school counseling program (Wilczenski & Coomey, 2006). Osborn, Peterson and Hale (2014) found that the experiences of school counselors can provide new frames of reference to unique experiences of those who service as virtual school counselors.

School counselors working with students in a virtual setting should:

  • Adhere to the same ethical guidelines in a virtual setting as school counselors in a face-to-face setting
  • Recognize and acknowledge the challenges and limitations of virtual school counseling
  • Implement procedures for students (and parents)  to follow in both emergency and nonemergency situations when the school counselor is not available
  • Recognize and mitigate the limitation of virtual school counselor confidentiality, which may include unintended viewers or recipients
  • Inform both the student and parent/guardian of the benefits and limitations of virtual counseling
  • Educate students on how to participate in the electronic school counseling relationship to minimize and prevent potential misunderstandings that could occur due to lack of verbal cues and inability to read body language or other visual cues that provide contextual meaning to the school counseling process
  • Educate students about appropriate conduct in the online setting and using digital literacy as a tool to have an impact on students
  • Incorporate lessons that align with academic, career and social/emotional domains


  • School counselors understand the expectations and limitations of providing virtual school counseling. School counselors have the responsibility to provide a school counseling program and develop programs to support all students in academic, career and social/emotional development that would emulate school counseling that would take place in a face-to-face environment. Virtual school counseling is a way to reach a diverse student set, to help students meet their potential and have an impact on their learning in a way they may not receive in a traditional face-to-face school environment.

West Virginia Board of Examiners (LPC)

For those WV LPCs and LMFTs who will be utilizing technology-assisted counseling or therapy, also known as distance counseling, the Board recommends the following:

  • 1) The licensee should be reminded that the standards of counseling and marriage and family therapy practice set forth in W. Va. Code § 30-31-1 et seq., Board rules, and professional code(s) of ethics as per W. Va. Code § 27-1-11 and §27-8-10, also apply to technology-assisted counseling and therapy.  Technology-Assisted counseling or therapy shall be held to the same standards of appropriate practice as those in-person settings.
  • 2) The licensee should be aware of the potential problems unique to technology-assisted counseling or therapy in that the counseling relationship, client identity, and other counseling related matters may be compromised.
  • 3) The licensee should limit the practice of technology-assisted counseling or therapy to the areas of competence in which proficiency has been gained through education, training, and experience.  Additionally, the licensee should continually assess both their professional and technical competence when providing technology-assisted counseling or therapy.
  • 4) The licensee should understand and inform clients of the limits to confidentiality and risks to the possible access or disclosure of confidential data and information that may occur during electronic service delivery.
  • 5) The licensee must take reasonable steps to ensure that security measures are in place for obtaining, protecting, verifying, and controlling access to client data.
  •  6.a.) For the WV Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) providing distance counseling to a client physically present in WV, the licensee shall adhere to "Section H - Distance Counseling, Technology, and Social Media" of the current version of the  ACA Code of Ethics.  In addition, the board recommends the LPC review the NBCC Policy Regarding the Provision of Distance Professional Services  to provide further guidance and ethical considerations when providing technology assisted counseling.

American Counseling Association Ethical Considerations for Distance Counseling

H.2. Informed Consent and Security

H.2.a. Informed Consent and Disclosure

  • Clients have the freedom to choose whether to use distance counseling, social media, and/or technology within the counseling process. In addition to the usual and customary protocol of informed consent between counselor and client for face-to-face counseling, the following issues, unique to the use of distance counseling, technology, and/ or social media, are addressed in the informed consent process:
  • Distance counseling credentials, physical location of practice, and contact information;
  • Risks and benefits of engaging in the use of distance counseling, technology, and/or social media;
  • Possibility of technology failure and alternate methods of service delivery;
  • Anticipated response time;
  • Emergency procedures to follow when the counselor is not available;
  • Social media policy

H.2.b. Confidentiality Maintained by the Counselor

  • Counselors acknowledge the limitations of maintaining the confidentiality of electronic records and transmissions. They inform clients that individuals might have authorized or unauthorized access to such records or transmissions (e.g., colleagues, supervisors, employees, information technologists).

H.2.c. Acknowledgment of Limitations
Counselors inform clients about the inherent limits of confidentiality when using technology. Counselors urge clients to be aware of authorized and/ or unauthorized access to information disclosed using this medium in the counseling process.

H.2.d. Security

  • Counselors use current encryption standards within their websites and/or technology-based communications that meet applicable legal requirements. Counselors take reasonable precautions to ensure the confidentiality of information transmitted through any electronic means.

H.4. Distance Counseling Relationship

H.4.a. Benefits and Limitations

  • Counselors inform clients of the benefits and limitations of using technology applications in the provision of counseling services. Such technologies include, but are not limited to, computer hardware and/or software, telephones and applications, social media and Internet-based applications and other audio and/or video communication, or data storage devices or media

H.4.b. Professional Boundaries in Distance Counseling

  • Counselors understand the necessity of maintaining a professional relationship with their clients. Counselors discuss and establish professional boundaries with clients regarding the appropriate use and/or application of technology and the limitations of its use within the counseling relationship (e.g., lack of confidentiality, times when not appropriate to use).

H.4.c. Technology-Assisted Services

  • When providing technology-assisted services, counselors make reasonable efforts to determine that clients are intellectually, emotionally, physically, linguistically, and functionally capable of using the application and that the application is appropriate for the needs of the client. Counselors verify that clients understand the purpose and operation of technology applications and follow up with clients to correct possible misconceptions, discover appropriate use, and assess subsequent steps.

H.4.d. Effectiveness of Services

  • When distance counseling services are deemed ineffective by the counselor or client, counselors consider delivering services face-to-face. If the counselor is not able to provide face-to-face services (e.g., lives in another state), the counselor assists the client in identifying appropriate services.

H.4.e. Access

  • Counselors provide information to clients regarding reasonable access to pertinent applications when providing technology-assisted services.

H.4.f. Communication Differences in Electronic Media

  • Counselors consider the differences between face-to-face and electronic communication (nonverbal and verbal cues) and how these may affect the counseling process. Counselors educate clients on how to prevent and address potential misunderstandings arising from the lack of visual cues and voice intonations when communicating electronically

American Counseling Association Ethical Considerations

NBCC Terms and Ethical Considerations

Other key terms with regard to this policy include:

  • Face-to-face refers to services that involve the synchronous interaction between an individual or groups of people using what is seen and heard in person to communicate.
  • Distance professional services involve the use of electronic or other means (e.g., telephones or computers) to provide services such as counseling, supervision, consultation or education.
  • Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.
  • Supervision is a contracted, hierarchical relationship between two or more professionals. The intended focus of supervision is on the augmentation of a supervisee’s professional services.
  • Consultation is a deliberate agreement between two or more professionals to work together to increase the effectiveness of professional services in relation to a specific individual (client, student or supervisee).