When I use the term ‘online counselling’ I mean sessions provided at a distance via video or telephone.
I WANT TO START ONLINE COUNSELLING WITH YOU, WHAT DO I DO?
There are various things to consider when thinking about having counselling online or via the telephone. Please read through the FAQs below, at the end of these is information of what to do next if you wish to proceed. It may seem like a lot of information but it is important that you feel fully informed.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DOES A THERAPIST NEED TO WORK ONLINE?
Unfortunately, many therapists are working online without doing the necessary additional training that qualifies them to work online. This training is on top of their professional standard qualifications. There are different skills involved when working online and many things to consider alongside what a counsellor would usually need to be aware of when working face to face. The BACP (one of the leading professional bodies for counsellors) say “online provision is a specialist area, requiring a level of competence at least as high as that for face-to-face work”.
Therefore, what you want to be looking for is someone who is a member of the Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (ACTO). This is in addition to their professional membership body such as BACP or UKCP. This shows they are fully qualified as a counsellor and then have completed sufficient additional training to work online.
WHEN ISN’T ONLINE THERAPY SUITABLE?
There are times and circumstances when online therapy is not appropriate. For instance, if you are experiencing a crisis or having suicidal thoughts, or feel like you are a risk to yourself or others. If this is the case please contact a crisis helpline please contact The Samaritans by visiting their website or call them on 116 123, alternatively call 999 or go to A&E. Face to face sessions may be more appropriate instead. Online counselling is also not suitable for clients who are suffering from an acute mental health crisis. Please note that, as with my face to face work, I am unable to work with anyone under the age of 18.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM FACE TO FACE COUNSELLING?
There are some similarities and some differences. It is possible for misunderstandings to occur in counselling whether working face-to-face or via video or telephone. But when working online it can be harder to pick up on non-verbal information or build a working relationship together. Please share any feelings you have about this as they come up and we can work to make the therapeutic experience more effective. However, when working online I provide the same safe and uninterrupted 50-minute session and it still provides effective support.
IS IT CONFIDENTIAL?
My online, telephone and face to face counselling is confidential. As part of my professional ethical code of practice I have regular supervision (which all counsellors must do) where I discuss my work, there I will use your first name only.There are some exceptions to confidentiality. For example, it will apply unless I were required to by law, if I was concerned about your welfare or if you request it.
WHAT ONLINE PLATFORMS DO YOU USE? ARE THEY SECURE?
I use software recommended by ACTO and the BACP, ensuring it is GDPR compliant. For video sessions I use Zoom (www.zoom.us). I create a new meeting for every session which has a unique password which I invite you to via email. I then lock the room once you ‘arrive’. Zoom is free to download and can also be used on phones/tablets. For phone sessions I use my password protected mobile. For contact with clients via email I use ProtonMail which is end to end encrypted. You may wish to sign up to ProtonMail for free to ensure your emails to me are secure and encrypted as well. I am a registered data controller with the Information Commissioners Office and store client data in a GDPR compliant way. I work within the ethical guidelines of BACP and ACTO to ensure client confidentiality is at the heart of my practice.
There are some security issues for you to bear in mind when having online counselling too. For instance, you may wish to consider: who else has access to your computer, are your passwords secure and up to date, do you have antivirus software installed, have you fully exited online counselling sessions? It may be advisable to delete your browsing history after sessions. You are responsible for ensuring your system is secure and you should consider this before you start sessions.
ARE THERE ANY PRACTICALITIES I NEED TO BE AWARE OF?
There are a number of practicalities you may wish to consider. These include things like finding a suitable quiet, private and distraction free space for our sessions. Be aware that pets can be very distracting! You may also wish to use headphones to increase your privacy. If you choose, you could also limit other distraction by turning your phone off or onto silent, or letting people in the house know not to disturb you. Please note that if my doorbell ever rings I will ignore it. I also ask that you do not eat during out sessions or be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
WHAT IS THE FREQUENCY AND DURATION OF SESSIONS?
Sessions take place on a weekly basis on a regular day and time. Sessions last for 50 minutes (this is known as a ‘counselling hour’). For holidays or cancellations due to illness please let me know with as much warning as possible, I will do the same for you.
HOW LONG DOES COUNSELLING LAST?
Generally counselling is either described as short term (6-12 sessions) or long term (open ended). There is no ‘right answer’ to how many counselling sessions you should have or how long it should last as this will vary depending on a number of factors, really it is about whether you have got what you need from counselling. The decision to end sessions is always open to you. However, this would be a discussion between us and I would suggest leaving enough time so that we can work properly towards an ending, rather than ending abruptly.
WHAT IF THERE ARE TECHNICAL FAILURES?
Firstly, please know that I will never intentionally disconnect or end a session prematurely. However, technical failures can happen. If either of us are experiencing problems with connection we will text and also try and connect/reconnect. If after 10 minutes this has not been possible I will either phone you (if this is something with have agreed previously) or I will email you to reschedule the session. Please allow time before the session to check for any potential connection issues, I will do the same.
IS THERE ANYTHING I NEED TO BE AWARE OF WHEN WORKING ONLINE?
People sometimes find there is something freeing about working online or via the telephone and this allows them to express their emotions or discuss things more easily. It is worth being aware of this as it can lead you to share more than you might have been prepared for , and more quickly. This can leave you feeling vulnerable, particularly if we are still building our working relationship. I would encourage you to be mindful of the pace at which we discuss things but this is something that we can work together on to ensure you feel safe and comfortable about what you’re sharing.
WHAT DO I DO AT THE END OF THE SESSION?
I would recommend closing/putting down whatever technology we’ve been using to communicate. You might want to have a cup of tea, a glass of water, some fresh air or maybe even a walk. Maybe some or none of those feel right for you, the important thing is to take a few minutes to reflect on our session, what was revealed or learnt or felt. You may want to write this down. Whatever you choose, it is a good idea to give yourself some time to reset before going back to daily life.
CAN I CONTACT YOU BETWEEN SESSIONS?
Contact between sessions should be minimal and used for administration, such as booking or cancelling sessions or in case of technical issues.
If a life-threatening emergency arises please call 999, go to your nearest A&E or call the Samaritans on 116 123 (for UK Residents).
CAN I ADD YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
While our therapeutic relationship is friendly it is also professional. To protect and respect the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship I do not communicate or engage with clients, past or present, on any form of social media.
CAN I RECORD A SESSION?
Please be aware at the recording of sessions in any way is prohibited. Instead you may wish to spend some time after a session reflecting on it and noting down anything you wish to remember. You may want to consider how to keep this private if necessary.
HOW AND WHEN DO I PAY?
The fee is payable by bank transfer on the day of the session (I will send you a secure email with my bank details). If you cannot pay via BACS please discuss this with me and we can look at alternatives.
WHAT IF I HAVE TO CANCEL OUR SESSION?
Please let me know with as much notice as possible (this can be in a session, via text or via email). Cancellation of an appointment with less than 48 hours notice, or failure to show for an appointment, will incur the full fee.
I HAVE READ THE INFORMATION ABOVE AND STILL WANT TO START ONLINE COUNSELLING WITH YOU, WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Please contact me via email or through my webform including a little information about what has brought you to counselling and your availability for sessions. I will aim to respond within 2 working days and confirm if I have any sessions free that match your availability. If we are able to work together I will send you an email that includes a counselling agreement and brief intake questionnaire. You may wish to create a free ProtonMail email account to ensure the security of your personal details. Please fill these in and send them back to me, we can then arrange our first session. If, however, I don’t feel that I am the right counsellor for you I will let you know and give you appropriate organisations or individuals to contact instead.