Are you sitting comfortably?
Important considerations for online counselling
If you are wondering about online counselling there are a number of things to think about to ensure you get the most from your session. This page will provide a few pointers to help you make an informed choice and feel settled ready to begin.
Why online counselling?
Although available since 1995, online counselling has recently become a popular choice for those seeking or continuing therapy during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
Online counselling allows you to connect with a counsellor regularly and receive support even during a lockdown. Other advantages include greater flexibility (you can access your session from almost anywhere*), greater choice (you’re not limited to your local therapists as there’s no travel involved), and greater options (so you can have a session in real time on the phone or by video link, or asynchronously by email).
As online counselling can take place via your mobile, tablet or laptop, it is a flexible & convenient way of accessing support
Who will you choose?
You may have been referred for online counselling by your GP, or had a counsellor recommended by a friend or colleague. But it’s important that you like your counsellor and feel you can work with them. Research has shown that the counselling relationship is key to a positive outcome so spend a little time getting to know your potential counsellor. Do you like their website, find them easy to chat with on the phone, or like their written style of communication?
ACTO (the Association for Counselling and Therapy Online) has a directory to help you find a qualified online counsellor here
Where will you sit?
Interestingly, this is an important thing to think about, and yet it can be the last thing to plan. Where will you be when it’s time for the session? It’s not advisable to take your session whilst driving, for example. If you have young children you need to supervise, it would be good to organise alternative childcare so that you can concentrate on your session. Children may find it upsetting to see you distressed or hear you talk about your issues, so older children also need to be thought about when booking your session. You may also want to consider who will be able to overhear you or see you. Taking the call on speakerphone in your local supermarket car park might feel like great multi-tasking but might not be such a good idea. Instead, find a convenient place where you won’t be interrupted or overheard, and where you have the freedom to express yourself because trying to contain emotion is tiring. Finally, think about, and perhaps test, the internet connection or mobile signal where you’d like to sit for your session. And be aware of internet security – if you’re in a coffee shop, for example, your data may not be secure. Plus you’ll be overheard, so perhaps grab a coffee to go and settle somewhere more private.
When planning where to sit for your session consider privacy, comfort and space
How will you sit?
Your posture during your online session can improve or impair your counselling experience. For example, perching for an hour on a hard surface or bench may give you backache, neck ache or stomach cramp. Hunching over a laptop can increase your anxiety levels. And a soft seat or lying in bed may make you too relaxed and unable to concentrate on the session. Also think about the impact of your environment. You may have begun your session sitting on a park bench in the sunshine, but end up sitting in the pouring rain – or even the dark! So spend some time finding a comfortable seat in a few locations to keep your options open and your body happy.
Try to have tissues, a soft drink, notepad & pen to hand
When will it happen?
Potentially, online counselling makes counselling accessible 24 hours a day – you just need to find a counsellor somewhere in the world who’s awake when you are! Alternatively, email sessions can be asynchronous. Asynchronous sessions simply put have a gap between being written, sent, received, read and responded to. For example, you may write your email at 1am and send it to the counsellor. They will acknowledge receipt during their working hours and respond at an agreed time – usually on a pre-arranged day or within a specific time frame such as 72 hours. However, it is important to note that there are restrictions regarding international counselling. For example, American citizens should seek online counselling from a therapist licensed in the USA where possible, whilst counsellors registered in the UK cannot offer therapy to clients based in Canada or the USA.
- Online counselling can happen in real time by text, phone or video. This feels more like a conversation.
- Or it can be asynchronous via email which allows you to write your thoughts and feelings down at a time convenient for you.
What do you need to know?
Before your online sessions begin you’ll need to know which remote method of communication you are going to use – phone, email or video. Some counsellors offer an opportunity to trial different methods so that the best option can be used. Then you need to know how often these communications will take place so that you can make the necessary arrangements. Importantly, you’ll need a back-up plan in case your mobile loses signal or the battery dies, for example. Most counsellors will include this information in your contract to provide clarity. And finally, you’ll need to know how and when to make the payment.
If you’d like to know more why not get in touch here
*Although in theory online counselling is accessible from anywhere, you need to consider connectivity, privacy, convenience and availability.