I work online in four different ways: email, live instant messaging (IM), web-cam (video) or telephone.
Email can allow you to be more reflective about the exchanges we have and you’ll have flexibility around time to compose what you want to say. On the other hand, you won’t receive my reply for 48 hours, which can sometimes provoke anxiety – as if your message has gone into a ‘black hole’. You’ll need to open a secure email account to ensure our exchanges are as secure as possible, and I’ll provide details of this.
Instant Messaging (IM) is similar to text-messaging. It is more like a conversation because it happens in real time.
Web-cam (video) is like Skype (although we use different software), in that we can see each other’s faces. It’s not quite the same as being in a room together because we can’t see the whole of each other, but we can see facial expressions, and like ‘traditional’ counselling we are speaking to each other rather than writing.
Telephone is just what it says. We normally use software so that we can make calls online but if you prefer to do it via ‘normal’ phone it’s fine – in that case you’ll need to make the call and incur any cost of this.
The practical stuff
Once you get in touch, I’ll send you a brief form, to find out why you’ve decided to seek counselling, and to ask you about your experience of communicating online. This will help us both to decide whether online counselling would work for you, or whether face to face counselling would be more appropriate – in which case I can assist you to find a suitable counsellor if we’re in different areas. If we decide to proceed, we will agree which way of working is the best fit, and when appointments will be. We’ll then complete an agreement form before our first session or email, which asks for some contact information and confirms administrative and practical details of the relationship. You can of course take as much time as you need to read over the forms and ask any questions.
With email therapy, we can discuss when you want to email me; I will respond to emails within 48 hours (72 hours over a weekend).
With instant messaging, sessions last for 1 hour. IM sessions take place using a secure video call and messaging system, which you can use from a PC, tablet or smartphone, and I’ll give you more information about this.
Web-cam and telephone sessions last for 50 minutes, again, using video call software.
You and me
It’s important that you think you’ll be able to feel comfortable in a relationship with me – and me with you – for us to be able to work together. It might be that our personalities don’t fit, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The relationship between client and therapist is different each time, but we’ll work together to better understand what’s going on for you and to help you to become more aware of where habits of thinking, feeling or behaviour may not be working for you as well now as they have in the past. It’s quite likely that, once you trust me, you may well repeat your default patterns of relating to people, in the way you relate to me. Talking about this can help us both to better understand and explore your difficulties. I don’t normally give advice, but I may offer tips or ways for you to think about how you react in certain situations.
You can end the counselling relationship at any time, but it’s usually helpful if we discuss the ending first – especially if we’ve been working together for some time.