FAQs about online counselling*
It is easy these days for a counsellor to assume clients know about online counselling. However, while people have been doing more online work in their day jobs because of the pandemic, there are still concerns about seeing a counsellor online. Through this page, I hope to answer some basic questions about online counselling to assure you that it is safe, secure and as effective as face-to-face counselling.
What is online counselling?
Online counselling goes by many different names; teletherapy, distance therapy, videoconferencing therapy… Most professional counsellors will use secure video platforms so that we can see and hear each other; I use Microsoft Teams, however if you want to use FaceTime or Zoom, I will be happy to oblige.
The Challenge with Online Counselling
One thing the pandemic has shown is that our physical location is no barrier to accessing high quality counselling and counsellors. At the start of the pandemic, several clients were concerned about moving their session online, it was a concern I shared.
My concern was not about the effectiveness of online counselling but rather the loss of the ‘human touch’ and the ability to read body language, cues that are readily available when the person is sitting across the room from me.
While there is a growing body of research evidence to suggest that online counselling is as effective as face-to-face counselling (have a look at this post), let me outline what I have found to be the advantages with online counselling from my experience:
- Convenience: Online counselling provides clients with the option of booking an appointment to suit their availability rather than having to add traveling time to any session time. Clients can also engage in counselling at their own convenience, in an environment that they are already very familiar and comfortable with.
- Flexibility: I have been offering limited online counselling for a few years, for people who have mobility issues, travel for work, or want to work with a specific specialist counsellor, anywhere in the world. Currently, I am counselling clients from across the UK, and in several different countries and continents across the world, both as private clients and through several different international companies.
- Emotional and Physical Safety: One of the strange things about online counselling is that, many clients seem to feel safer. Clients feel as if they are in control of where they see the counsellor. For some the safe space is their home, for others they travel to a safe space in their car and talk to me away from home or work. Another aspect, is that clients don’t seem to feel the need to maintain a ‘social mask’ in their initial session and tend to offer me a glimpse of who they are, being more honest and transparent in the session – meaning that our work can progress at a faster, deeper pace. I can only think that this is because they feel safer in a space of their choosing.
- Reduced Stigma: Not having to go to a counsellor’s rooms, and therefore not being seen, or having to explain to people what they are doing, seems to be a benefit that some experience from online counselling.
How does online counselling work?
It is just like going to see your counsellor.
Being stuck at home or working remotely can be isolating. First, this is not a unique feeling, and many people feel the same way. Second, online counselling is a good way to taking care of your mental health and building your mental fitness while unable to make it in person for therapy, but it’s important that you find a good fit with your counsellor.
Online Counselling is just like going to see your counsellor from the comfort of your home or office (or any other space in which you feel safe – for example people have had sessions in their car, in their garden, on their daily walk…).
Do I need specialist software?
No. Wherever possible, and with the agreement of my clients, I use a secure online video-conferencing provided by the folks at Microsoft Teams. I can, however, offer counselling using other platforms (FaceTime, Zoom, Skype or Whats appeal).
Just check that your sound and camera are turned on, and your alerts are disabled, when you connect.
Free 30 minutes consultation.
The best way to find out if you are happy working with me online and as your online counsellor, is to take advantage of the free 30 minutes telephone or video consultation I offer. Click here for more info.
From being a luddite about using technology, my experience over the last year (since the start of the pandemic) has been very positive. I am convinced that online counselling is best for my approach to counselling and even after the current difficulties have passed, I will continue to provide my counselling services online for my clients
*Although I use the term online counselling, I do also offer clients telephone counselling.
Online counselling is not for everyone
While I am convinced of the benefits of online counselling, to the extent all my work is now online and will remain so, there are circumstances where you should think carefully about online counselling. If you are thinking of harming yourself or others, I would strongly suggest that you seek help from organisations such as the Samaritans.