Skip to content

    Health & Balance

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    When Cybertherapy Goes Bad


    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Craig H. Kliger, MD

    July 24, 2000 -- "I don't recommend that anyone with a diagnosis like mine use the Internet," says Chris Brandon. But that's exactly what she did.

    A 31-year-old computer programming student, she was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder three years ago. "It scared the living life out of me," she says. Like many people with a new medical diagnosis, she turned to the Internet for information. What she found, she says, nearly drove her to suicide.

    Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

    How to Breathe Better

    When heart specialist John M. Kennedy, M.D., of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, stands at the scrub sink before an operation, he breathes deeply with seven-count exhales, visualizing how he wants the procedure to go. "Athletes use these techniques to perform under pressure, but we can all call on them in our regular lives," Dr. Kennedy says. It starts with knowing what kind of breathing works best for the challenge you're facing. Here's what the latest research shows. REV UP If...

    Read the How to Breathe Better article > >

    As more and more people seek psychotherapy online, experts worry that charlatans may take advantage of them. "The Internet is beyond government control, so people have to take more responsibility for what they consume online," says Storm King, MS, past president of the International Society for Mental Health Online, an organization of patients and professionals concerned with the use of the Internet for mental health. "Unfortunately, people with mental illness may not have the best judgment."

    So far, incidents of such abuse are fairly rare, according to those tracking the phenomenon. Martha Ainsworth, who checks the credentials of cybertherapists at her web site (www.metanoia.org), says she knows of no lawsuits filed against online therapists. She has found only one in four years who claims to be credentialed but is not.

    But Brandon's case shows just how badly Internet therapy can turn out.

    She first ran into problems when friends started telling her about a self-styled "psychoanalyst," who frequented chat rooms for abuse survivors and "multiples." Some women talked about going to his house for Froot Loops and ice cream.

    When a friend said she was going to visit him, Brandon decided to check his credentials. "I knew that real therapists did not invite you to their homes," she says. "I talked to him on the phone and he told me he was a therapist, licensed in (two states). I called the licensing boards of those states and they had never heard of him."

    The man, who spoke with WebMD on the condition that his name not be used, denies ever making these claims. But he admits he described himself, on one archived bulletin board, as a psychoanalyst with seven year's experience. "There are no laws against calling yourself a psychoanalyst," he says.

    Today on WebMD

    woman in yoga class
    6 health benefits of yoga.
    beautiful girl lying down of grass
    10 relaxation techniques to try.
     
    mature woman with glass of water
    Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
    coffee beans in shape of mug
    Get the facts.
     
    Take your medication
    Slideshow
    Hand appearing to hold the sun
    Article
     
    Hungover man
    Slideshow
    Welcome mat and wellington boots
    Slideshow
     
    Woman worn out on couch
    Article
    Happy and sad faces
    Quiz
     
    Fingertip with string tied in a bow
    Article
    laughing family
    Quiz