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What is online counselling?

posted 29 Nov 2011, 06:19 by Christine Schneider   [ updated 27 Jan 2012, 00:40 ]

What is Online Counselling?

Online counselling provides an opportunity to explore a personal difficulty in a confidential and supportive environment, very much in the way that face to face counselling does. This process may include expressing feelings that are painful, and which many of us experience at certain times in our lives.

When this happens, it can be difficult to stay positive and cope with everyday life, yet at the same time you may not find yourself in a position to go and visit a counsellor in his or her practice. This is where online counselling can give you the opportunity to access counselling support at a time and in a place that is convenient to you. There are basically three different methods of conducting counselling online, email, video conferencing, and instant text messaging. With the first method, email counselling, clients will send an email to their counsellor by a specific date. This could for example be every week, by Wednesday 4pm at the latest. The counsellor will then reply to the client's email by a time previously agreed between counsellor and client, for example by Thursday 6pm at the latest. There are some differences in how counsellors ask their clients to structure their emails, some will suggest clients use a word limit, other will suggest clients spend a specific amount of time writing their email. The latter approach generally mimics the process of real time counselling more closely and tends to give clients a more structured and boundaried approach, just as face to face counselling would. The second method listed above probably comes closest to mimicking face to face counselling: where counsellor and client use video conferencing for their sessions, both will meet online at a previously agreed appointment slot and conduct their session with the use of a web-cam. The third approach, instant text messaging is the one most frequently chosen by clients who would like to stick to writing, but are looking for a counsellor's instant input and interventions that email counselling cannot provide due to the time delay. Where a counsellor and client use instant text messaging, the counselling session is conducted similarly to an online chat session, where counsellor and client meet online for their appointment.

What sort of issues can I contact an online counsellor about?

You can contact Christine with any of the issues that you would bring to a face to face counselling session, as online counselling may be able to help with a wide range of issues. Some clients seek online counselling in order to work through a very specific issue, whilst others are looking for a means to cope with life's challenges, like bereavement, work stress, separation or emotional trauma.  Yet others seek online counselling as a way of improving their lives and gaining greater stability and emotional well being.

You need to remain aware though that not all types of issues can be resolved through online counselling, and your counsellor will advise you if face to face counselling, or some other form of support might be more suitable for you. Where your counsellor considers that online counselling would not be the most suitable means of support, they will make every effort to assist you in a referral to a suitable alternative source of support.

When is online counselling not suitable?

  • Online counselling is not suitable for clients who find themselves in an acute crisis situation. In this case you should always contact the appropriate emergency services first; these may include A&E, your GP or the Samaritans.
  • Furthermore, online counselling is not suitable for clients who are suffering from psychiatric disorders and/or are experiencing psychotic episodes, including hallucinations, delusions, or feelings of derealisation.
  • Online counselling is not suitable if you need intense support, such as ongoing telephone support or hospitalisation.
  • Also, online counselling is not suitable if you need a medical diagnosis or a prescription.

You can learn more about online counselling and how it may help you by going to the relevant sections of this website.  

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