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And many in the field still worry about privacy, liability, and fraud.

That ultimately may be the role of online therapy -- to break down the barriers to getting treatment started.

Cybertherapy, says Taintor, "is not a substitute for in-person therapy.

July 24, 2000 -- Eighteen months ago, Beth Steele of Houston was severely depressed.

She had long suffered from bipolar disorder, but between caring for a daughter with the same illness and running her dog grooming business, she couldn't find time for therapy.

"It can heat your house or burn it down." For Steele, the advantages clearly outweighed the risks.

She found help through a chat room at, where she and her counselor "talked" every Tuesday for a year.

Ken Evans of Russelville, Ark., did not want to be seen by anyone.

Since undergoing brain surgery in 1994, the one-time personnel manager has been paralyzed on the left side of his face.

And the way a patient reacts to a therapist's comments -- perhaps tensing when a sensitive issue is raised -- offers insight into problems. ) Another drawback to cybertherapy is that doctors usually won't prescribe medication online.

Following her online therapist's advice, Beth Steele saw a psychiatrist once every three months through her county's mental health agency, which provided her with medication.

"Within ten years, computers will become so embedded in our lives, we won't even think of this as telehealth," she says.


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