- Online and telephone counselling
Online and telephone counselling
While face to face counselling is perhaps the most recognised form of treatment, there are a number of factors that may mean receiving counselling in another way could be a more appropriate option for you.
Online and telephone support
Online, email and telephone counselling offer individuals the same level of support and confidentiality as that of meeting face to face with a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist. It can also offer suitable solutions to some of the difficulties associated with receiving treatment in a traditional therapeutic setting, such as:
Accessibility - Counselling slots can become full. This is especially true for appointments that are in high demand, such as those in the evening and late at night. Online and telephone counsellors however may be able to offer a higher level of flexibility - therefore reducing the waiting time for treatment and making it more accessible.
Affordability - Reduced overheads, like not having to rent a private counselling space, may mean that some counsellors are able to offer online, email or telephone counselling at a reduced rate.
Anonymity - If you are concerned about the stigma attached to mental health problems or you are worried that someone may find you are having treatment, online and telephone counselling services offer the client a higher level of privacy, as well as giving the option to remain anonymous.
Convenience - These services mean that you are able to receive support from the comfort of your own home, or wherever it is that you are. This can be a hugely beneficial aspect for the following individuals in particular:
- Housebound and/or disabled individuals.
- Carers who are unable to take a break from their responsibilities even for a short time.
- Parents who can't afford childcare.
- Employees who travel frequently or are too busy to commit to regular face to face appointments.
- People living in remote areas who are far from a therapist's office.
- Hearing impaired - instant chat and email counselling mean that an interpreter will not be required.
Flexibility - A reduced crossover period between clients in combination with a series of additional factors often mean that these services can be offered at more flexible times than face to face counselling.
The idea of telephone and online counselling has been around for some time. However, the increase in use of smartphones, social media and online technology has resulted in a growing movement towards online and telephone counselling services.
With so many people online on a daily basis, either for leisure or work, online and telephone counselling are ideal alternative solutions for many obstacles that some individuals face when attempting to seek face to face counselling. Ultimately, online counselling is a method which can be used to reach people who are unable to access or get the support they need.
Is online and telephone counselling effective?
While some experts believe the efficacy of online and telephone counselling is not as strong as face to face, there is mounting evidence to suggest that the outcome of these methods is at least equal to the effects of traditional counselling. Leading medical journal The Lancet, previously published a study validating claims that online cognitive behavioural therapy is just as effective in treating depression as traditional therapy. In addition, telephone counselling has also been recognised an effective treatment for depression.
Simply put, online counselling is any form of counselling that is conducted over the Internet. This could be via email, or over an instant messenger service that allows the counsellor to talk to the client in real time.
Whatever mode of Internet communication is used, online counselling is an ideal way for many individuals to seek confidential and professional support.
Email counselling is a form of online counselling that allows a client to work with a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist via an email exchange. The process involves the client writing their problems and concerns in an email, and the counsellor replying with a considered therapeutic response.
Writing down our problems can be an extremely effective way of processing negative emotions. Putting pen to paper, or in this case, hand to keyboard - is an ideal way for individuals who do not feel comfortable speaking about their problems out loud.
Because emails can be written at any time and the client is in control of the timing on their side of the contract - they have the freedom to document what is on their mind as it occurs, rather than waiting several days for a face to face counselling session.
Just knowing that there is someone there to receive, acknowledge and respond to your problems without judgement can provide an enormous sense of comfort and support to anyone attempting to overcome a difficult period in their life.
How does email counselling work?
Email counselling will revolve around a series of email exchanges between the online counsellor and client. However, before sessions begin you will need to clarify the following details, usually during an initial conversation:
- The client's reason for seeking counselling and the issues that need to be addressed.
- Some background information about the client.
- Guidelines on how many times the client is able to email the counsellor.
- The time frame in which the client can expect to receive a response.
- Fees - what is the cost of each email exchange?
- Privacy and confidentiality policy.
- Cancellation policy.
If you're unsure as to whether email counselling is a suitable option for you, the best thing to do is to get in touch with a counsellor to discuss your concerns. Initiating contact does not mean you are obligated to proceed.
Online chat counselling
This form of counselling is carried out at a prearranged time using an instant messenger service, allowing clients to receive an instant 'real time' response.
While email counselling can be very beneficial, the instant feedback obtained from online chat counselling can be comforting for clients who wish to interact and respond with their therapist immediately. Similar to email counselling, online chat counselling is often more accessible and convenient than that of face to face counselling. It also gives the client the option of remaining anonymous.
How does online chat counselling work?
If you have decided that online chat counselling is an avenue you would like to explore, get in touch with your chosen counsellor to arrange a mutually convenient time for you to ‘meet’ online. At the designated time slot, the counsellor and client will both log on to a predetermined chat room (which will be secure and confidential), so that they can exchange instant messages for the agreed length of the session.
As with all forms of counselling, certain details will need to be confirmed before the online counselling begins. This may be done over the phone, via email or using the instant messenger.
Whatever mode of communication, the client should ensure they have spoken to their counsellor about why they are seeking help, how many sessions they may need, cost, privacy and the cancellation policy.
An increasingly popular option for those who can't make face to face counselling sessions is Skype counselling. Skype enables you to video chat in real time with other people over the Internet. The app is free and easy to download. If your computer doesn't have a webcam or microphone, you will have to purchase these too, however they are relatively inexpensive.
The beauty of Skype is that you’re able to see your counsellor - a factor that people often miss during email or telephone counselling. Just like these other methods, Skype counselling allows you to attend a session from the comfort of your own home and you can talk to a counsellor from anywhere in the world.
How does Skype counselling work?
Usually you will contact a counsellor via email or telephone in the first instance to arrange an initial consultation. Together you will plan a suitable time for sessions and discuss why you are seeking counselling.
During your initial consultation you can check that everything is working correctly and that you feel comfortable receiving counselling in this way. This is also your opportunity to get to know your counsellor and ensure that you are happy with their style of working. During sessions, ensure you are in a comfortable position and in a room where you won’t be disturbed.
In terms of payment, your counsellor may ask you to pay via a secure online payment before the session, or they may ask for credit card details at the end. It’s important to keep personal details safe, so ensure all payments are carried out in a safe and secure manner.
Do I need to be computer literate to have online counselling?
While individuals considering the option of online counselling will need some basic computer skills, you don’t need to be a tech-genius to make email or instant chat counselling work for you. The majority of counsellors who do offer these services will be able to provide a step-by-step simple approach to getting started.
Telephone counselling works in the same way as face to face counselling, but is conducted over the phone. Some counsellors may offer this as an additional avenue of support between face to face counselling sessions, and others may focus solely on conducting the counselling over the phone.
How does telephone counselling work?
The first step is simply for the client to call the counsellor for an initial discussion. If the counsellor feels that telephone counselling is going to be an appropriate method of treatment, a session can be booked in for a time that is convenient for you.
During the initial conversation, the counsellor will take the opportunity to discuss the areas that need to be addressed, to find out some background information about the client, and to discuss the number of counselling sessions that may be needed. The counsellor will also usually outline their confidentiality policy as well as general information, such as cancellation policy.
How do you know if a counsellor or psychotherapist is suitably qualified?
Here at Counselling Directory, we understand the importance of knowing your therapist is suitably trained and experienced in the topics you seek help for. Because of this, we have a proof policy in place to ensure all professionals listed on our website have provided proof of qualifications and insurance, or membership with a professional body.
While online counselling is not yet regulated, the Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (ACTO) is an association for therapists and counsellors working online therapeutically. The association "promotes, maintains, improves and advances online counselling and psychotherapy as a recognised method of therapeutic delivery within the mental health professions."
For peace of mind, when searching for a counsellor or psychotherapist, look out for the ACTO logo on their profile. This means they are experienced in working online and providing online support. For more information on ACTO, who they are and what they do, visit their website.