What do you think of online therapy/counselling with a counsellor/therapist?
We are no stranger to using online services for our daily tasks like sending and replying to emails, tele/video conferencing with colleagues across the globe, for connecting with others through Whatsapp, Wechat, Line etc and for self-entertainment and obtaining information through social media.
However, have you considered utilizing online therapy when you needed emotional support? Maybe you’ve not even thought about it until now…When we’re all kinda forced to stay indoors and the transition can be tougher than you might have thought it could be.
How Does Online Counselling/Therapy Look Like?
They come in various formats and they all depend on what is offered by the counsellor. Some might be more comfortable communicating via emails, texts, telephone or video conferencing. In most cases, a client (you) and counsellor enter into a contract virtually (acknowledgement) to consent to counselling. Confidentiality and its limits will be explained by the counsellor as well as the process of counselling/therapy. The ethical responsibility to protect and maintain the confidentiality of clients is still adhered to.
Below are some advantages and disadvantages of online therapy/counselling and some thoughts into it:
· Ease of accessibility as clients can choose their preferred place (e.g. in their room,in the privacy of toilets, in cars etc.) for the session to be conducted. Accessibility due to mobility issues, geographical distance or time constrains can be solved.
· For clients who might be struggling with anxiety, having sessions online might help lessen the nervousness of meeting people face to face.
· Fear of stigma might be lessened as they do not seem to be present at a counselling/therapy centre and only conversing virtually.
· Latency in time response might allow a client time to reflect at his/her own comfort in time.
· Client can access the previous sessions as reference through emails/test messages for reflections.
· With the absence of face to face contact, client may feel a level of anonymity that is perceived to be non-threatening by allowing an ‘invisibility’ that can be disinhibiting.
· Cost of online session is lower than face-to-face session.
· Missed communication may happened due to insufficient engagement of the senses (absence of verbal and nonverbal cues). Sometimes written messages might feel rather intrusive on its own as just depending on verbal tone in tele-counselling without the vital essence of body language could be a risk. For video conferencing session, facial expression may not be clear due to low resolution or lagging in connectivity.
· There is safety concern for high risk clients who are susceptible to self-harm as the counsellor might not have the full engagement of the client at the moment.
· Might not be suitable for everyone due to personal preference.
· Not suitable for people who are not tech savvy.
Things you need to ask your counsellor/therapist
· Clients must ask counsellor/psychologist/therapist to provide necessary qualifications and credentials. For Malaysian counsellors, you can search their credentials with the Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia in their website, for psychologist please check with Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology (MSCP).
· What is her therapy structure/theoretical orientation look like because all counsellors/therapists have their own style in conducting their session? Have her/him explain to you how it works.
· And you can ask them anything regarding your mental health well-being. (if you ask her/him personally questions you might be redirected back to yourself, that’s how important you are)
Technology might not allow the complete resources required in the process of therapy, however it expanded on the choice and flexibility of it. It can also be a springboard to seek help, any small steps matter. Anyways who has not written an email, type some messages or talked on the phone before? Online therapy/counselling could be an easier alternative to face to face therapy. Most importantly, what makes you more comfortable, that’s all.
A lot of research have been conducted and results were promising as the efficacy of online therapy do work for a myriad of issues such as depression, anxiety and stress.
Not to discount the power of face-to-face session because most effective communication is done in the present.
Technology can be used to supplement face-to-face interaction only when there is a certain level of stability that is met through physical sessions. I personally need to experience my clients fully in order to be able to tune in to them in the present. For me, communication is 80% nonverbal and 20% verbal especially when I also use different expressive methods to help with my sessions.
Having said that, I am currently exploring sessions with existing clients via video conferencing due to the current situation that we're in where a lockdown is necessary to control the spread of the Covid-19 and life still need to go on.
Honestly, I'm adjusting to this new way of work. I've had some hiccups and it was frustrating but I'll try again harder.