Counselling is more accessible than ever thanks to online therapy and sessions taking place over the phone.
Making the decision to begin counselling can be a difficult step. So accessing online therapy can be beneficial for many people – without the worry of travel, feeling anxious in the waiting room or social distancing.
Online therapy offers a non-judgemental, safe space where a professional counsellor can help you reflect and process your thoughts, behaviours and feelings. Counselling can also help you understand yourself better, move forward and achieve your goals.
When the pandemic hit, Breathe transitioned from face to face to online therapy. This meant we could still work with people and organisations through challenging times. We speak to our counsellor Sarah who talks about her reflections and learnings of working with people online.
What are some of the benefits of online therapy?
Delivering sessions remotely means that counselling is now accessible for people who are unable to leave their homes. They can experience the many benefits of online therapy such as processing and overcoming their difficulties.
Since offering online therapy, we can reach even more people and work with anyone, anywhere in the UK.
Attendance and engagement have improved too. Before the pandemic, not all people would complete their 8 sessions of counselling. However, based on my experience working within two universities, the attendance figures have improved. Records show an increase in clients not only attending their session but also in their engagement of coming back every week.
It has also helped some people to experience less embarrassment coming to counselling – an extended sense of confidentiality of no one knowing.
Have you noticed anything different with online therapy compared to face to face counselling?
Opening up and talking about how we really feel can be difficult. Therefore some people feel more comfortable and relaxed accessing online therapy in the comfort of their own home rather than face to face.
People can feel safer being themselves through online sessions. For example, I have experienced more transgender people requesting counselling because they feel freer to be themselves – their true authentic selves.
Having a virtual space can also improve the therapeutic relationship. I have noticed how quickly a person opens up online compared to when I have been sat opposite someone in close proximity.
Online therapy can be especially beneficial for people on the autism spectrum who may find entering a bright room to be a daunting and overwhelming sensory experience.
How do you still ensure a good working relationship?
I feel it is important to consider the following:
- Take time to ask how they are feeling about meeting via webcam in their home
- Set aside time prior to the session to check equipment and internet connection. Check your head, shoulders and arms are visible on camera so any natural gestures or mannerisms are being observed. It is important that both client and counsellor can see each other expressions and physical responses.
- Some people may have anxiety about using technology if they are not familiar with it. I simply send an email prior to the session outlining how to join use Zoom along with some ‘how to’ useful information of other ways of joining – such as using their mobile
- A quiet space is important. The therapeutic relationship is built on trust and people need a confidential space to express themselves.
- During a session, I am specific with my responses and explain the meaning behind interventions. I don’t assume they understand the intention behind a reflection or question
- Clarify the process if the session gets disconnected. For example, I request if it is ok to have their mobile on hand to help with any issues or anxiety they may have re-joining the session – it’s good to expect the unexpected.
Face to face counselling is still beneficial
Whilst there are many benefits to online therapy, it can sometimes be difficult working with some people. For example, a person who is experiencing suicidal thoughts can be challenging for counsellors to navigate whilst online. Being at Breathe’s counselling centre means I can seek colleague’s advice straight away to assess the ‘risk’ and establish a suitable support plan.
Face to face enables the counsellor to observe the client fully such as their body language -how they are sitting, are they crossing their arms in front of them? Any signs or ques of needing to comfort themselves? Sometimes working remotely means the counsellor isn’t always able to pick up on these ques especially if the client refuses to use the camera.
Since working remotely, it has been important to manage self-care as a counsellor and know how to “decompress” after a session.
Interested in online therapy?
The first step is to complete and return a referral form. Following an assessment, we will pair you with a counsellor best suited to your needs. We want to get it right for you so that you have a good relationship and experience, which will help you to achieve your goals.
Counselling for organisations
We offer a confidential counselling service for employees. You find out more here.
Not quite ready to start counselling?
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