A Guide to Online Therapy
Why online? While most clients would prefer to attend face to face in-person counselling, there are those whose preference is for online sessions. Some clients choose this option for the convenience and safety of not having to leave home/work, or for reasons of accessibility such as mobility limitations, or living in remote areas. Some prefer to opt for a specialist or language-specific counsellor or are living abroad but prefer a therapist in the UK. Or simply choosing to have therapy with the counsellor of your liking. Online counselling also allows busy clients to integrate their therapy with daily schedules. Being able to participate in couples or family therapy from different locations is another advantage of online counselling. And whilst there are many practical reasons for choosing online therapy, some people just find it easier to speak about difficult and painful matters from the comfort of their own surroundings, or not being physically in the same room.
Does online counselling work? The answer is yes, online counselling can not only be successful but highly effective. Many studies confirm this, and the huge increase in organisations offering online therapy seem to indicate a growing demand for it. My own work with clients confirms this too: in my experience, therapeutic change happens in the same way as when I am counselling in person. But since we are all different, we will experience the therapeutic journey in our own way, so I'd suggest it isn't for everyone. In addition, not everyone has the privacy required to recreate that safe space in their own homes/workplaces. Therapy is never going to be satisfactory if you think your partner or flatmate can overhear you, or you can hear your children outside the door clamouring to get in.
How does it work? I provide an online counselling agreement which puts into place how we work safely online. This agreement will not only create a safe and boundaried session, but also map out what measures are in place if someone walks into your room, the internet cuts out, or there is any other disruption. I will then email a Zoom link (or Google Meet invite) a day or two before our session. Ensuring your safety and wellbeing also means I will use my professional judgement to gauge whether this way of working is appropriate for you, after one or two sessions. You are also invited to share how you feel it is going; you will know if it is working for you or not.
There may be some glitches in the initial sessions as you grapple with the ‘can you hear me?’ moments. I will advise you to prepare yourself before the session so that your needs are met: have your drinks and tissues on hand, put your phone on silent and lock the door if it helps create that safe space for you. One of the advantages of in-person therapy is the journey home – it’s a natural opportunity to reflect on the session and re-balance yourself before everyday life kicks in. With online therapy it’s often back into the world without that decompression time so I will advise you to be kind to yourself and give yourself some time to sit with your reflections and feelings after each session.
The last word. I wouldn’t suggest that online therapy works well for every person or for even for every counsellor. But if you are considering online therapy, I would suggest you give it a go to get your own sense of how it feels and how it supports you.