Safe and effective in a pandemic

by | Apr 14, 2021 | Online Therapy

Counselling via Zoom or phone

Though the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out a long road to easing of lockdown restrictions, I will continue to meet clients via Zoom or telephone as I have since the first lockdown of March 2020. For me, working online or via phone is simply the safest way to work in a pandemic – and client safety is my first responsibility.

But is online therapy effective? It certainly has a long and respectable history going back to the late 1950s when closed circuit TV was first used in ‘tele-medicine’. Today, the options for mediated therapy have grown with online therapists providing support through telephone, video links, chat and email. Research shows that online counselling can be as effective as face to face and may even offer advantages.

I have benefited from online therapy myself when I signed up for counselling via email during my training. Though I never met my counsellor in person, I gained a powerful sense of her through the way she responded to me and over a short space of time, I came to trust her and to look forward greatly to our weekly sessions.

Knowing how beneficial online counselling can be, I was determined to offer this option to clients at a time when so many of us are struggling with our mental and emotional health.

At present, I counsel people via telephone or Zoom, though I intend to offer counselling via email and chat later this year. Around a third of my clients opt for telephone since it poses no technical difficulties and is easily available in the confidential spaces we may have to contrive. Clients who opt for telephone say they feel more able to talk candidly about their feelings and experiences than they would via Zoom or in a face to face setting. And whilst as a counsellor, I might miss the visual cues from a client, I gain a great deal from the tone of voice, the use of language, the occasional silences.

So, if you’re thinking about counselling, should you choose telephone or video?

I try to make the choice a little easier by offering would-be clients a free session to help them choose if I’m the right counsellor for them and to establish whether phone or video would work best. Generally, I’d recommend the device you’re most familiar with and the one to which you have the easiest access, though it’s surprising how quickly Zoom novices can become expert in just a few sessions.

What do I need if I opt for Zoom?

You can use it with:

  • Phones and tablets: IOS, Android and Blackberry
  • Mac OS X with Mac OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later
  • Windows 7 or later.

You will also need to make sure:

  • Your device has webcam, microphone and speakers
  • You have a reliable internet connection.

If you are accessing Zoom from a mobile device, make sure you have at least 3G/4G connection.

I schedule your session for the time and date we’ve agreed and either email or text the link to you. You just click on this to download the Zoom software.

Preparing for your session

To get the most out of your session, it’s important you find somewhere private where you won’t be overheard or interrupted. Some clients even use their cars to find somewhere quiet.

Make sure to switch off all devices including cloud-based voice services such as Alexa. It’s a good idea, if possible, to meet in the same location.

Find a seat that’s going to be comfortable enough for an hour – and arrange yourself as if you were in a face to face meeting. It helps if you have the light on your face, not behind you which makes it difficult to pick out your features. How do you dress? I’ll leave that to you, though if asked, I always advise comfort. You might also want to keep a box of tissues close at hand and some water…

It’s also a good idea to get yourself into a counselling ‘zone’, five to ten minutes quiet time before you switch on your device – and the same time at the end of sessions. Counselling can be quite intense and sometimes even exhausting, so it’s a good idea to ease yourself back into your everyday.

What if things go wrong?

Before we start work together, I send you some guidance notes including what to do if we have technology problems. This rarely happens, but when it does, I make sure we have a plan B.

To arrange a free online counselling session, email [email protected] or call 07799 761825.


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