February 2, 2023

We are currently in a situation that we never experienced before. People, young and old are facing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. This pandemic brought a lot of challenges to families, to individuals – especially children and adolescents. Children and adolescents are said to be emotionally vulnerable at this time of pandemic; their emotional difficulties seem to be heightened. For the past two months, since the school year started in October, a number of learners expressed their overwhelming experiences and difficulties in adjusting to the “new normal” in the current educational setup. At the same time, they face the consequences of being confined at home which results in a feeling of boredom due to the loss of usual routine and social connection. Hence, the school counselors are also challenged to provide “new normal” ways in extending a helping hand and listening heart to these learners.
Counseling service is considered the “heart” of the Guidance and Counseling program in schools because it aims to assist learners in their coping behavior, thereby facilitates meaningful understanding of the self and immediate environment. It is through this service that learners are assisted to uphold positive mental health wellness. The counseling service in school is usually done face-to-face between a Registered Guidance Counselor and a client. In this time of pandemic, this traditional face-to-face counseling service is altered into online counseling or e-counseling.
As stated in a study by Poh Li, et.al. on Understanding the Two Sides of Online Counseling and their Ethical and Legal Ramifications, online counseling is said to be the transmission of therapeutic interventions in the World Wide Web in which the computer-mediated communication technologies is facilitated as a medium of communication between a trained professional counselor and client. Such is done through various modes of online communication. It is further mentioned in the study that one of the advantages of online counseling is its potential for increased accessibility to mental health services whereby it can be provided at any time of the day and clients can send messages whenever they feel most in need of them. Moreover, in a study done by Wong et.al, it was reported that 35 percent (409 students in six universities in Malaysia) of their participants reported that they would be likely to use online counseling services but would be unlikely to participate in face-to-face counseling.
Conversely, the time delay between the counselor and the client can be regarded as a disadvantage, but according to Tate & Zabinski, time delay allows both counselor and client to have sufficient time to compose a thought or question that precisely reflects their concern and issue – both presenting and real issues.
Indeed, there are pros and cons in e-counseling, but what is essential is to continue realizing one of its goals – to sustain the mental health wellness of the clients (in my case, the learners), most especially in this time of pandemic, wherein they are likely to suffer from strong feelings of unhappiness and despair, some leading to depression and self-injurious behavior.
Counseling service, whether done face-to-face or online, is still to be rendered to clients with the utmost confidentiality and that the issues raised by the clients are still real and need to be addressed. — Maria Luisa S. Mirano