Online counselling therapy is a way for you to participate in counselling using internet such as email, online chat, telephone or webcam video. You as the client can choose whichever mode you are the most comfortable with. You and your counsellor can choose a mutually agreeable time slot for the session to take place, yet you can decide where you are going to be situated along with the pace of the session. Every effort is made to provide a safe and secure environment for your online therapy with encryption software to provide you with anonymity and confidentiality.
Online counselling offers certain benefits but there are also limitations that are worth bearing in mind when deciding which type of therapy will best suit your needs.
Online Counselling Chat Room
Should you choose to receive counselling via the online chat room you will be directed to a secure login page that takes you to an encrypted area where you meet your counsellor at a time that was prearranged beforehand. Your session is 50 minutes and a transcript will be available afterwards allowing you to review what both you and your counsellor said. This gives you the opportunity to clarify any uncertainties you may have from your session and also leaves you with something to go back to as you process the information. You do not need a webcam for this counselling, and you may choose to remain anonymous should you wish.
You can engage in face to face therapy with your counsellor via a webcam using a piece of software called Zoom (this is available for both computer and mobile phone.) You will be guided through setting up your own encrypted Zoom account and your therapist will send you a link via email inviting you to your session. The session lasts 50 minutes. Being able to see your counsellor gives you more of the benefits you get from face-to-face counselling but with the convenience of online therapy. By talking you hear tone of voice which allows for empathy to be conveyed whilst with video you see nonverbal communications such as facial expressions and general body language.
This is similar to webcam counselling as it happens through the Zoom system, or via a handset, but without the visual aspects. You can choose to remain anonymous and the conversation is encrypted if held on Zoom. An advantage of telephone counselling is that non-verbal communication can be carried in you tone of voice or the pace of speech which can be picked up by your counsellor. A disadvantage of telephone counselling is that you need a private room where you will not be overheard.
Counselling using email offers you the opportunity to consider what you wish to say before you send it as well as time between exchanges to reflect on the information you have received. You will be guided in how to set up a free email account using either Hushmail or Protonmail and will then have a set amount of email contacts with your counsellor. Email counselling is also sometimes used in between more structured sessions such as online chat, telephone or webcam counselling. A consideration of email counselling is the time delay between your mail and the return mail (up to 72 hours) and this makes email counselling ineffective when urgency is a priority.
Disclaimer: Truth is technology is fallible, that it is not solely in your control, and that there is a possibility (although minimal) that confidentiality may be compromised.
I will make vigorous efforts to maintain a client's privacy online, as per GDPR and current legislation, using password protection for meetings and secure software platforms.
However, clients must understand that due to our reliance on third party software companies, it is not possible to be 100% secure. I will always inform clients should I become aware of security concerns regarding software used, or relevant changes to legislation.