Online Counselling Before COVID-19
Online counselling and therapy have been an option for a long time. But with COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation requirements, it is now essential.
Many years ago, remote consultations were considered a fallback – technology that allowed us to bridge the odd gap in therapy when a client was away from Sydney for work. Admittedly back then we even frowned upon counsellors and psychologists who offered online counselling as a service in its own right.
My conversion came many years ago when I had a number of clients moving away, interstate and overseas, who requested to continue their therapy online. I agreed and discovered that it was an excellent way to support them through their stressful transition to a new period in their lives…
Over time I realised that we were still doing good work – too good to stop. The penny dropped for me – online counselling was a highly effective way to work with clients.
Now, while being primarily Sydney therapists in our downtown office, we have provided online therapy to people moving abroad, living remotely, doing shift work, travelling for work, living in a non-English speaking country, and so forth.
Online Counselling in 2020
Today, within the space of a couple of weeks, online consultations have become, for the time being, our most common mode of service delivery.
COVID-19 confronts us with the global crisis of our lifetime. We are banished from our normal lives. The Australian Government is suddenly promoting Telehealth so that people can access medical help safely. Private health funds are abolishing their old policy of offering rebates for face-to-face psychology and counselling only.
While online consultations are no longer new, our day-to-day lives are very new. Whether it’s working from home on the dinner table, or having children ‘schooling’ at home, or being in work hibernation or unemployed, these are difficult circumstances. For most of us, stress is an understatement.
You are faced with the real-world challenges of the current crisis, as well as your own personal challenges and stress. You probably deserve help more than ever, but the relative normality of inquiring, making an appointment and going to an office is no longer an option.
So what now?
If you are new to counselling and therapy, you may have some of the usual questions and hesitations. But even if you are a veteran, you may wonder how to get the most out of online counselling in this strange new world.
How to Get the Most out of Online Counselling and Therapy
5 Tips and Considerations
1. You will get more from your session if you have uninterrupted privacy.
This is the beauty of the therapy office, you escape into a haven outside of your everyday. Without this luxury, you must do what you can to replicate the space and privacy.
Right now in our practice, ‘car sessions’ (even some in the garage) are on the rise. Alternatively, choose and plan your session time — when you can close the door to the room, or maybe when the rest of the household is out for a walk.
2. Ensure a transition to and from your therapy session.
You do not have the walk or ride to and from your session, to ponder or reflect. Maybe take a brief walk, stretch or plan a quick break before and after your appointment time. You will engage more fully this way.
3. Don’t let it be another work meeting.
Like planning a transition, make your online counselling time as different from work as possible. If you can, move out of your workspace. Log out of everything else and turn off all notifications. Switch out of work mode to get the full benefit.
4. Work hard but safely
It is a bit like getting physically fit with a trainer— you want to work hard but safely. No point if you don’t get your heart rate up and break a sweat. But you don’t want to get injured either.
Likewise, with your online counselling. You want to feel supported and understood but you also want it to be productive and work with the difficulties and discomfort in order to get real relief. And of course to do so safely.
Your counsellor, psychologist or therapist must facilitate a safe space in person or remotely. Choose a practitioner who is qualified, meets your specific needs and is skilled to ensure your work together is constructive.
5. Consider and choose your preferred delivery mode
It makes sense for a first session to have a standard video-conference meeting, on a device with decent video, audio and connection. However, you do have choices for subsequent meetings and you might like to trial different options and see what works best for you.
Let’s be honest. There are some very real advantages to pre-COVID, old-style counselling – leaving work or home and visiting your therapist in a comfortable, private office. With online counselling, however, you need to create a conducive space for yourself.
Will a hand-held device on a comfortable couch suit you best? Or will you be more comfortable with your laptop at your desk? Perhaps you will prefer audio only, and choose the relaxed focus of a clear phone call, after a day of video meetings and staring at screens.
Online counselling and therapy are proven and effective services. It might not be your first choice but you can make it work for you. With the stress of the current crisis, on top of the stress that was already there, you deserve the help it will bring.
If you have any questions or to make an inquiry book a free 10 minute call.