Seven reasons why you might choose email counselling

Since the changes in counselling provision during the COVID lockdowns, most people have heard of remote counselling and may well have undertaken video or audio sessions, either as an occasional alternative to their face-to-face sessions or as their main way to receive therapy. However, many people have not yet used or heard about the idea of email counselling.
I first offered the occasional remote session many years ago, but it was during the lockdowns that it became a regular offering. I quickly undertook appropriate training in all forms of remote therapy, and I found myself very much drawn to email counselling. There was a certain freedom and beauty in being able to take uninterrupted time to write, letting the words flow where they wished to.
It was with some hesitation that I first offered this method to clients, unfamiliar to me as it seemed – perhaps when they were away on holiday or during school holidays, and had no private space, but didn’t wish to take a break from sessions. I soon found that this kind of work was valued as highly by my clients as it was by me, and seemed particularly popular with clients who were neurodivergent (e.g. ADHD, ASD, dyslexia, giftedness), highly introverted or shy clients, or those that found therapeutic interventions particularly difficult to take in or absorb.


Over time, I have identified some themes around when or why email counselling might work best. These include: 

1.  Overwhelm 

If you tend to feel overwhelmed in sessions, or if you experience sensory overload, working by email helps you to keep overload at bay – or allows you to take breaks whenever you need to.

2.  Distractibility or struggle with focusing your thoughts

If you struggle with focusing on concentrating on a particular thread, writing without any interruption from your therapist can feel liberating, and can enable your thoughts to flow where they will – with the choice to go back and edit for clarity, if you want to.

3. Time management

If you struggle with time management or making a regular commitment, having the luxury to fit in your session at a time and day of your choosing can be very supportive – even, if you need to take a break and pick it up another day – this can apply to:

  • people with very busy work or homelife schedules
  • people who undertake changing shift work
  •  parents with very young babies or older children who still require a lot of their time
  • people who experience challenges with executive functioning

4. Difficulty communicating verbally 

If you find it hard to communicate verbally and find it easier to express yourself through the written word, email counselling can be a wonderful way to share your reality with your therapist, without worrying about how you are communicating. 

5. Fear of speaking 

If this is your first time sharing your thoughts about something you are embarrassed about and it feels just too impossible, writing can feel easier than speaking.

6. Saving time

Some clients have already spent much time in the past sharing details of their lives with previous therapists, and it can feel very time-consuming to go over all this again with a new therapist – sometimes you may choose to ‘brain dump’ in an email for your first session, or where you know you are going to feel like you’re going over ‘old ground’.

7. Doubling therapeutic time

Both client and therapist work independently of each other, in the sense that a single session is composed of a whole hour of the client ‘speaking’, followed by a whole hour of the therapist ‘replying’. Because of this, the ‘session time’ is effectively doubled (for the price of a single session!), and you might also find that the work can go more deeply, more quickly.

Of course, many clients have expressed anxiety about their grammar or spelling, but it is really important to remember that these things are not at all important to your therapist – the content of what you write (or avoid writing about!) is what matters.
This way of working is called ‘asynchronous’, where the sessions are not ‘live’ but instead client and therapist are working one at a time, at different periods during the week. As a therapist, I find it to be a wonderful way to allow clients to tell their stories more fluidly, without interruption on my part, enabling them to delve into their stories without distraction.

Unlike live or ‘synchronous’ sessions, I also have the luxury of responding to every detail that strikes me or jumps out at me, without the need to rely on my memory – I can react slowly, taking time to savour how I feel or what I think about certain phrases or images. This enables me to work more deeply and more richly, sometimes in a speedier manner than synchronous work may allow. It can also facilitate a more creative way of working, particularly enabling greater use of metaphor or imagery, which enables the therapeutic work to bypass language, and to cut to the core of issues more rapidly or to help bring out previously subconscious truths.
I hope this has given you some idea of why or when email counselling might be the right choice for you. As a final point, if you are interested in working over email, please remember that it can take a few sessions to get used to working this way – it does feel very different, and as with anything, practice makes it easier.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Farnborough GU14 & Reading RG2
Written by Ninoslava Shah, Gestalt Counsellor Dip MBACP Accred 111450, Reiki Master L3
Farnborough GU14 & Reading RG2

I'm Nina. I specialise in issues around belonging and identity, including those that relate to mixed culture, neurodivergence (suspected or diagnosed), or diversity around sexuality, gender or relationships. I offer remote therapy sessions via phone, video, messaging and email. I also offer remote walk and talk session via audio call.

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