As a therapist I recently completed a course in how to offer counselling online (the Online Therapy institute’s Certified Cyber Therapist (CCT) credential). I found myself learning about netiquette, the different plausible modalities of Instant messaging, video, voice call or email and even the possibility of offering counselling in a virtual world!
I started exploring the surprisingly many websites, especially USA-based, that offer online counselling. It made me feel quite slow on the uptake. I decided to sign up to one site as client trialling a free session (not required for the course). I particularly wanted to use email as I liked the idea of writing my thoughts and having time to reflect.
I kept it genuine and in my initial email told my online counsellor I was a counsellor myself, trying out the concept while also having some real issues to present. The reply was swift despite the US time difference but also surprising. My therapist self disclosed quite a bit creating parallels to my concerns. I was kindly given firm advice on what I should do and which vitamins to take! There were also quite a few typos in her text which made reading the reply tricky.
I replied by saying that I thought perhaps her counselling approach was maybe different to mine and that I had been left a bit perplexed. We had two further email exchanges and all within 48 hours. I found myself eagerly awaiting her replies partly out of curiosity but also gratitude. In the end my counsellor told me that I ought to perhaps find a new counsellor as she seemed to be confusing me (indeed). I think the term ‘ditched’ sprang to mind!
I moved onto another counsellor with slight trepidation and had a fairly similar experience. Again she felt she’d taken the wrong tack knowing I was a counsellor. I still feel that what I had written wasn’t ‘heard’ very well. In this instance I found the process of writing my feelings in the emails more useful than receiving the replies.
On a more hopeful note, I’ve since continued my endeavours to receive online counselling and have had success. The site I used was UK-based (PlusGuidance – recommended by the Online Therapy Institute) with a British therapist narrowing the gap of cultural working differences which I felt before. I have chosen a mixture of email, video and IM sessions and paid £40 per session. It has gone better than I could have expected: I felt heard, I felt trust and I felt empathy in a very short space of time. The more I have gotten used to the modalities the less I feel aware that I am online. In fact I have surprised myself at how easy it is to experience the disinhibition effect and to freely confide.
Surprisingly I wasn’t too interested in the security or encryption of the site or how the therapist contracted with me. Even though in my own practice I take this seriously, as a customer I took it as given.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Denise Kolb is a person centred counsellor who works primarily with young people in school settings. Having recently completed her training in online counselling with The Online Therapy Institute she has launched an online counselling service for years 11,12 and 13 at a local senior school.
Want to find out more about Denise’s training course? CLICK HERE!