What issues can I get support for with online counselling?
Online counselling can be very helpful with a range of issues including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression and relationship problems. It is most useful for people who have access to adequate resources where they are, but feel they would like some additional support. It is not suitable for people who are struggling to cope with more severe mental illness, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, addiction or overwhelming trauma. In those cases, I recommend longer term face-to-face support. For individuals who have experienced a traumatic event but have the resources locally to remain where they are, I can provide supportive stabilization, continuing assessment and guidance.
Is online counselling any different from face-to-face therapy?
Research shows that the success of any counselling process rests largely on the quality of the relationship between the client and counsellor. This applies regardless of whether your sessions are online or face-to-face. In both settings, then, it is vital that we both work to establish a sense of honesty and trust. In online counselling, there can be a greater potential for misunderstanding, especially when it comes to e-mail sessions. It is important to acknowledge this when it happens and take time to clarify what was really meant. Online counselling clearly has certain advantages over face-to-face work. It offers greater flexibility in terms of geographical location, especially if you travel a lot or live somewhere with few mental health resources. Some people feel nervous of going outside or inhibited by the idea of meeting someone face-to-face. If that is something you recognize, online counselling might feel more comfortable. Clients who choose to have their therapy via e-mail appreciate the opportunity to work with the written word and to reflect at greater length on what they want to say.
How secure is online counselling?
For web-based video communication and Instant Messaging (IM), I use Zoom, a cutting edge video-conferencing platform, with end-to-end 256-bit AES encryption, so you can be sure that all data transferred between us is safe. It is much more secure than Skype and also uses lower bandwidth, making it a more user-friendly option for people living in areas with poor internet connectivity.
For those wishing to conduct their therapy by e-mail, I use Tutanota, a fully encrypted webmail service. Again, it is free to use and easy to set up an account.
What kind of technology do I need?
You do not need to have any specialist equipment. For web-based video, you need to ensure you have an adequate broadband signal and a working webcam. If your internet connection is poor, it may be preferable to select e-mail or IM for your sessions. It is important that your computer is protected by good anti-virus software. It is also vital that you ensure that others do not have access to your computer or can see your screen while you are in a session. I encourage clients to keep any written records in password-protected files.
Can we maintain contact through social media?
In face-to-face counselling, it is accepted that it is unethical and potentially harmful for any therapist to engage in social contact with a client outside the consulting room. Similarly, online counsellors are advised not to accept invitations from clients to connect on social media. Please do not be offended that I decline such requests.