Does Online Counselling Work?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always preferred communicating face to face with others, especially when there are important matters to discuss or think about. Being in the same physical location means you can observe the other person in totality including their gestures and body language. When I trained to become a counsellor seeing clients in-person therefore seemed quite a natural way of working.
Having spent years being face to face in the room with my young clients, online counselling g is certainly a different way of approaching therapy.
By online counselling I mean any method of having therapy which does not entail being in the same room physically with the counsellor. This could be by zoom, skype, WhatsApp on teams or over the telephone.
Prior to the pandemic in 2020 I started having the odd session online and realised it can work. The main requirement is for counsellor and client to build up a trusted therapeutic alliance.
Counselling works through the establishment of an intimate relationship between a counsellor and client, which is where the healing element in the work takes place. From my experience working mostly online in the last year, the therapist is still able to pick up the client’s difficult thoughts and feelings and help them make sense of their experiences.
Benefits of online Counselling
Online counselling makes the service more accessible and removes the barrier of distance since people do not have to travel to a physical location. The therapist and client could be in different cities or countries.
It’s convenience and flexibility help clients commit to therapy more easily.
It eliminates barriers that might discourage people from seeking face to face counselling, such as a person struggling with extreme social anxiety.
Clients who are keen to remain anonymous and keep their therapy journey to themselves, perhaps due to social stigmas can do so. They do not have to travel to a building with other people.
A huge amount of clients are within the reach of the therapist and client can be in different cities or nations and it also enables the counsellor to reach clients who would be otherwise too remote.
Challenges of online Counselling
Ultimately therapist and client may never meet, having formed such an intimate relationship.
Internet or connectivity issues: This could result in delays or interruptions to responses which could hinder the flow of a natural bond.
Privacy issues: If the client has no private space to themselves in the house and worries about being overhead by others, this could cause them to hold back or withhold information, which could in turn impact the therapeutic process.
Confidentiality: Online therapy could pose an element of cyber security risk in terms of confidentiality.
Legal and Ethical considerations: It could increase the opportunity for unqualified counsellors or those lacking experience to put advertise their services without proper scrutiny.
Acute issues: Some client issues like extreme trauma may work better when seen in-person.
Overall online therapy is not the same as having it in person, but it is definitely a brilliant second-best alternative and can work just as effectively.