Building sustaining relationships and establishing social presence in an asynchronous or synchronous online counseling environment can be a challenge. Asynchronous communication in an online counseling environment is defined as sequential communication in which the time communication is delivered is not simultaneous to the time it is received. Currie (2010), categorizes asynchronous communication as it relates to virtual counseling, by the client and the counselor choosing when to respond, similar to that of an email or SMS text correspondence.

Conversely, synchronous communication in an online counseling environment is defined by real-time conversation – it’s happening now between two or more people. For example, Alessi and Trollip (2001) describe attributes of synchronous communication to include chat room events, instant messaging, and audio/video teleconferencing.

In addition, Paulsen (2008) states that synchronous communication could bring about the sense of belonging to a community of learners; however, on the other hand, mandating synchronous communication could have an adverse affect and should be avoided. Velasquez, Graham, and Osguthorpe (2013) discuss the relationship between synchronous and asynchronous environments online and how they help to highlight the paradigm shift from just establishing an online presence to establishing relationships.

Furthermore, according to Ho and Swan (2007) these relationships are essential to sustaining online counseling in an asynchronous environment because asynchronous communication “tends to be less formal and more personal in style” (p. 4), which helps in the authenticity of the conversation and aids in building the relationships that are paramount in the online counseling environment.


Alessi, S., Trollip, S., & Alessi, S. (2001). Multimedia for learning (1st ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Currie, N. (2010). Virtual Counseling for Students Enrolled in Online Educational Programs. Educational Considerations, 37(2), 22–26.

Ho, C., & Swan, K. (2007). Evaluating online conversation in an asynchronous learning environment: An application of Grice’s cooperative principle. The Internet And Higher Education, 10(1), 3–14.

Paulsen, M. (2008). Cooperative online education, 4, 2. Velasquez, A., Graham, C., &

Osguthorpe, R. (2013). Caring in a technology-mediated online high school context. Distance Education, 34(1), 97–118.

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