• Adam Rothwell

What is online & phone counselling?

Updated: Nov 18, 2020


How things have changed since the internet has grown... the world is constantly evolving and finding new ways to solve life's issues. Counselling & Psychotherapy has also benefitted from developments in internet technology, opening up new opportunities for clients to gain support from their therapist with greater ease. However, technology can still concern and confuse many of us, so this article hopes to give information about how counselling by phone or online platforms works.

Telephone counselling

This isn't actually such a new concept as phones have been around much longer than the internet. We are all probably familiar with helplines such as The Samaritans or Rape Crisis, who have provided support via phones for years. Counselling works on much the same premise. You agree a day and time for your sessions and your therapist will ring you. Sessions work in the same way a face-to-face session would, with you and your counsellor speaking. Some top tips for having counselling over the phone -

  • Make sure you are somewhere you won't be disturbed; sometimes it can be hard to hear down the phone if there is background noise in the room you are in.

  • If you can use a phone with handheld options e.g. a mobile phone with earphones, this will save you the discomfort of having to hold a phone to your ear for fifty minutes to an hour.

  • If using a mobile phone, make sure you have charged the phone before hand, and if possible, keep it charging whilst in your session; this stops the risk of getting cut off due to low battery.

Online counselling

This is a relatively newer concept, since the dawn of the internet. There are numerous ways you can receive counselling online, but the main method is to have a video conferencing call with your counsellor on a platform such as Zoom. The benefits of this is that you can see as well as hear each other, delivering the nearest experience to meeting in person as possible. Many of these platforms also have functions such as a chat box to type things in or whiteboards to share information. This can be helpful in therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy where there can be information sharing and collaborative thinking. The counsellor often has the ability to share their computer screen with you too, which can be helpful if they want to show you a document or video. Some tips for having counselling online:

  • Make sure your internet connection is strong - video conferencing can demand a lot from your internet. If you live with others, it may be worth asking if they don't mind cutting down their usage whilst you are on the call.

  • Find somewhere comfortable to sit - it is best that your head and shoulders are in your video, but make sure that you are also sat comfortably for your sessions.

  • Use earphones - this often means you can hear more clearly and are less easily distracted if there are other noises where you are.

How safe and secure is online counselling?

This is a genuine concern and we are all aware of scams and issues around data sharing. There are a number of things counsellors should do to ensure your privacy is maintained online:

  • Use secure platforms with encryption - providers like Zoom provide encryption and security measures such as passwords on meetings to ensure users' privacy.

  • Where possible, don't input any personal details into platforms - you often do not need to input someone's email or phone number into a platform in order to invite them to a meeting. For instance, with Zoom meetings, the therapist can create a meeting and email the link to the meeting to their client.

  • No recording of sessions - this is often a function of online videoconferencing and can be helpful for business purposes. However for counselling, ensure that your counsellor is not recording the session.

Summary and the benefits of online / telephone counselling

The technological revolution has, and will continue to, change the way in which we communicate with each other, for better or for worse. Although face-to-face counselling is still popular, receiving therapy either online or by phone has a number of benefits:

  • Save money - often with online/phone counselling, there are reduced costs for the therapist and this potentially reduces costs for clients as well.

  • Save time - this way of attending counselling can be done at home which saves on travelling time to and from a counselling premises for sessions each week.

  • Quicker services - there is also more ease for the counsellor, which means that usually sessions can be offered at shorter notice upon initial contact. This means that the client gets support quicker.

  • Connect with people from further afield - With face-to-face counselling clients need to be able to travel to the counsellor, usually within an hour's journey. However, with online and phone therapy, the client can connect with a counsellor on the other side of the country, opening up more options when looking for the right counsellor for them.

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