Virtually everything is available online these days, and counselling is no exception. Most towns and cities have excellent Internet coverage, and this, combined with the abundance of smart phones, tablets, desktop and laptop systems mean that we are never far away from the means to communicate. Initially I was sceptical of delivering counselling online, but after trying it myself I realise that my own experience as a client was just as effective as being in a room with a counsellor. It was also far more convenient to relax in my own home rather than travel, especially in winter. When I reflect upon this, and try to work out why I was not convinced by the idea of online counselling, I can’t actually come with much, other than the fact that I was never too keen on long phone calls. In practice though, I didn’t find this to be an issue. Instead of holding a phone to my ear for 50 minutes I was able to sit back on the sofa, with an iPad propped up in front of me and found the whole experience quite comfortable. As soon as the connection was made, I felt the same way I did when sitting in a counselling room. There are certain things we need to consider before working online, for the counsellor they should know what to be aware of with regards to the room and setting that they are in, but for the client it may not be quite so obvious. I thought it might be useful to provide some guidance for the client in relation to preparing for an online therapy session. In addition to the guidance, I’ve prepared a short video demonstrating how I work in an online counselling set up, You can take a look here.
First of all let’s assume that you’ve made an appointment with ‘Reach for Help’ for an online counselling session. There are several different software packages to use, the important thing to think about is confidentiality, and we manage confidentiality while working online through the use of encryption. This is not something to get too technical with, because the software we choose handles this for us. It is important to know which software packages encrypt our conversation though, I personally would recommend the use of FaceTime as it is encrypted end-to-end, for those of us that don’t have an Apple device then ‘WhatsApp’ also uses encryption. This means that content can’t be accessed by a third party without your permission. At the time of writing, Skype is rolling out encryption for voice and messaging, but this does not as yet include video.
Once a booking has been made, I like to send a text reminder to the client usually a day before the session, and another one just before calling the client on FaceTime. This allows the client time to be ready, maybe get a glass of water or to try and make sure that they won’t be disturbed. We are effectively working from home, so we can never be sure that someone isn’t going to disturb us, this is just one of the factors we need to take into account. It isn’t necessarily the end of the world if the postman knocks on the door, as long as we are prepared for possible interruptions then we can compensate for these. It’s exactly the same if we were working in rooms and the fire alarm went off, or if working in nature and an over-friendly dog decides to bound across the field to greet us. These are common day-to-day distractions, and sometimes we can even work with them, depending on the situation.
As an opportunity to see for yourself what an online counselling session is like, I offer the first session free of charge to any client who hasn’t tried it before. If you’d like to find out more simply contact me for details.