Is online counselling the future? tips to enhance your experience
The ever-changing social distancing rules here in the UK due to Coronavirus mean that more and more people are choosing online counselling sessions when seeking professional help for their mental health and well-being. Perhaps this is because the medium of video calls is becoming an intrinsic part of how we communicate in 2020, at work and with our family and friends. For anyone with anxiety around mixing with too many people just now, accessing therapy online could be a great fit for you.
Benefits of online counselling
- COVID safe
- well suited to people who are time-poor – no need to factor in travel time to appointments
- can be more cost effective - there are no travel costs and no additional costs as you take extra time out of your day. For example, paying for parking or a dog walker if you were to be home later due to attending in-person counselling after work
- you don’t have to immediately step out into the real world post-session which can be jarring
- suited to those with disabilities or mobility issues
- helpful for people with chronic conditions and pain
How to get the most from online sessions
Separate your session from work and other responsibilities
You have done something significant for yourself in seeking counselling. You have made a decision to get some professional support for whatever it is that you want to work through. Many of us are working from home and our online counselling session might be the last video call of our working day. Or something we fit in before picking up children or preparing a meal. Try to make a separate space in your mind for when your counselling begins; perhaps by getting ready for it five or 10 minutes prior to the session. This also gives you plenty of time to check the wifi is connected and that your laptop or tablet is charged.
Create a soothing space
Visiting counselling rooms you would likely encounter a space that doesn’t have much in it and is hopefully calming and inviting. Online therapy occurs in your home so where possible you have the power to create an environment that you want for the session. You might want to have a think about what might help you. Good lighting is important so your counsellor can see you well. Some other ideas might be to have a candle burning that you like the scent of or sitting in a corner that feels safe and comfortable. Some clients have a blanket or a cushion close by. Your counsellor will not judge you for doing the session in the spare room amongst the washing, however! Do what feels right, important and manageable to you.
Grant yourself permission for processing time post-session
One of the beautiful things about online counselling is that you can give yourself permission for 10 minutes after your session to just take a bit of time to let it sit with you. To let your thoughts and feelings settle and collect. If some intense emotions have surfaced give a little space to them. You can perhaps do something gentle like make a cup of tea or you might want to journal a few things. You might even want to do some stretching or listen to music. Taking this processing time can enhance your counselling experience. Try not to rush back into being all the various things you are to other people.
Set boundaries with people you live with
If you live with others let them know what you need in order to get the best experience from your sessions. No interruptions, complete privacy and the processing time after your session respected. If you are concerned about privacy in your sessions try to pick a room that others won’t walk by and wear headphones for your session. This means only you will be able to hear what your counsellor is saying to you.
Leave it with your counsellor
All of the above can help you have some separation for your counselling sessions, but they are still happening most likely in your home or private space. You might talk about things you don’t want to be connected so closely to your home life, or to the close relationships under your roof. Give yourself permission to leave any feelings, thoughts, or experiences that you don’t want to carry into your personal space with your counsellor at the end of the session. They can hold on to it until you see them next week.
Talk to your counsellor about your experience of online counselling
Having online counselling is not exactly the same as in-person counselling although the good news is that studies show it is equally effective. Warm and meaningful therapeutic bonds can be built between counsellor and client via video. Your counsellor would welcome and encourage you to talk about any aspect of online work that feels different for you. Like the fact that it occurs in your home and how you feel about that. If there are things you’d like from your counsellor in order to feel more at ease and to help communication let them know. Just like in-person work your counsellor wants to help facilitate a space for you to better understand yourself and find new ways of being. Where you are safe to explore and share aspects of yourself without judgement or expectation.