The Future of Avatar Training

The groups being conducted using the Traveler software is just one of many projects that will be undertaken in the months to come. Currently, another package is being evaluated for use and trial groups will be conducted with it as well. This will be an ongoing process of locating and evaluating applications that can be used to train mental health professionals to provide individual and group services online as well as provide direct training with specific applications.

Avatar training will help professionals to integrate their current face-to-face skills with the virtual world. For example, avatars have a way of making individual and group sessions more natural than typical textual chat or email methods. Advanced packages like the Traveler software also add the dimension of voice and facial expression to reflect mood. The ability to move about the room provides more clues to a person's state that might otherwise go undetected with conventional text only communication modes. A person's choice of a particular avatar may offer clues that can be therapeutically used. These are all areas to be explored by professionals and topics to be covered in future courses.

Ethical concerns must be addressed as most professional organizations begin to seriously look at the ethics of online service delivery. Patient/client safety and confidentiality are also matters for concern. Avatar training will go beyond the mechanics of using technology to provide services, ethics and competencies must play a major role in the overall training as well.

The goals of avatar training are:

  1. To provide the mental health community with the opportunity to get first hand experience with conducting online individual and group sessions in a safe and supervised environment
  2. Provide guidance for ethical practice online
  3. Advance the state-of-the-art of online mental health practice by developing online techniques and methods
  4. Assist in making online practice a viable adjunct to traditional face-to-face contact

Gerald R. Quimby, MA
Director of Avatar Training, Telehealth Training Institute

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References

American Counseling Association (1997). ACA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

American Psychological Association (1997). Ethical Principles Of Psychologists And Code Of Conduct.

National Association of Social Workers California Chapter (1997). NASW Code Of Ethics.

OnLive! Technologies, Inc. (1997).

Yalom, Irvin D. (1985). The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (3rd ed.). New York: Basic Books.

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