In my last post I mentioned that colleges and universities in a variety of countries have adopted Online Counselling for their students. I surveyed fifteen post-secondary institutions that offer Online Counselling. I was curious about years of service, target group, student response, numbers served, issues that brought students to Online counselling versus in person counselling, challenges faced, counsellor training and best practices. I received eight responses.  In this post I would like to share some of what they had to say.
Most of the institutions surveyed had been offering Online Counselling since 2006, which seems like an adequate length of time to be able to offer insightful comments.
“Feedback from students has been positive…” (same comment from 4 institutions)
“Students have been very positive about the service. We asked for as much feedback as possible during the first pilot year and students indicated that it helped them in many ways, both in terms of succeeding on their courses and also in their private and personal lives”
“We find that the students find online counselling far less ‘odd’ or ‘innovative’ than we do – it is part of their world of communication and they do so many other things online, this hardly seems odd to them!”
[I find this to be one of the most compelling comments made]
Why students choose Online Counselling
“Many students tell us that they find it easier to talk to us online about difficult issues such as sexual abuse and eating disorders than they would face to face.”
“Have found that a significant number of our online clients are those who feel unable to ask for face-to-face due to issues of shame, embarrassment, shyness etc.”
“We have noticed that it is particularly popular with international students…and with men – groups who might perhaps be more reluctant to come for face to face counselling.”
“…statistics showing that compared to the face to face service, more males & more international students access online, and presenting issues tend to be of a more intimate nature, generally regarding sexual behaviours.”
“What has transpired is that 95% of enquiries come from students who could easily access the walk in face to face service anyway. … those who say they are too busy, too shy, or want to test out their “normality”.”
Their recommended best practices? (additionally supported by a literature review)
Training in Online Counselling for Counsellors
Regular Supervision with supervisor experienced in Online counselling
Encrypted Email system or some other method of encryption (e.g. password protected Microsoft Word documents)
Teach students how to preserve their own privacy
Teach students how to make the most of Online counselling
Clear, specific parameters for Online counselling (e.g. response times, expectations, how to express self in text)
Don’t assume it will work for everyone
Okay, I’ll ask it again. Is this an idea whose time has come? Is it time for Canadian post-secondary institutions to step up to the plate? What do you think?
The opinions expressed in this blogpost are personal.
Dawn Schell, MA, CCC is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc.
 Responses from counsellors at universities in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA