"Online counselling ... how does that work?". It’s a response I'm often met with when I tell people that this is one of the services I offer.
In fact, online therapy is now a well-established field which, having been around since the 1980’s continues to grow so that these days you can even find online therapists offering counselling over email, through real time instant messaging and even via virtual reality 'Avatar' therapy!
Whilst teleporting to virtual worlds to meet clients is not my thing, I do offer online counselling using webcam. This is very much like in-person counselling only we are meeting face to face over the screen.
This means you can meet with me from the comfort of your home or other appropriate, private location without having to travel. All that is required is a quiet, private space where you can’t be overheard, a computer device with a webcam and a good, reliable internet connection.
I use secure video connection to ensure confidentiality. This requires a free and easy to use piece of software called 'Zoom' which you can download without cost. You may be familiar with applications like ‘Skype’ or ‘Facetime’. It works in a similar, easy to use way, though most importantly has end to end encryption meaning it is secure and ensures confidentiality.
"It sounds good but can counselling over webcam really be effective?" I too asked the same question before experiencing it myself as a client. Prior to trying it out myself, I automatically assumed that therapy over a webcam would just not be effective, that it simply would struggle to provide a sense of genuine person to person connection. However, I was really surprised by the level of connection and rapport that can be achieved between therapist and client when working this way.
Actually, it makes sense when you think about it. Many people naturally feel more relaxed and safer when sitting in front of their computers in their own home or familiar environment as opposed to coming into an unfamiliar consulting room.
Much of my training was devoted to the nuances and considerations of how to work over webcam and I engage every year with the annual conference of the Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (ACTO). Online counselling is not necessarily for everybody and in some cases, it is not always appropriate. Yet counselling online over webcam does offer some additional advantages of freedom and flexibility:
- Meet from the comfort of your home or other safe private space: Taking the initial step to seek help is often difficult. If we are already struggling emotionally then venturing into an unfamiliar place such as a counsellor’s office may feel daunting and can become a further obstacle that prevents us from accessing help. If leaving home doesn’t seem realistic at present, then meeting online may offer an alternative way forward.
- Meet from anywhere in the world: I work with a number of English-speaking and ex-patriot clients who are resident in countries outside of the UK and require access to English language counselling. I also work with those whose careers demand regular periods of lengthy overseas travel. Differences in time zones can be a challenge yet we can usually find an appointment convenient to us both.
- Avoid transport and time constraints: Maybe you have an illness, disability or other constraints that make it difficult to travel to appointments? Similarly, challenges such as finding childcare mean some clients find it easier to meet online at home.
- Reduced costs: None of the costs or inconveniences of fares, or fuel and parking fees etc. that may be involved when travelling to an appointment. In addition, my fee for online counselling is 20% lower than when meeting face to face.
You can also read an article to which I contributed, which is about how to make the most of video therapy sessions and was published in 2020 on the popular healthcare information website Patient.info
If you think online counselling might work for you and would like to find out more, please get in touch.