The world of online counselling is an interesting place to work. Because sometimes you are engaging with a client in real-time and other times you are not….and yet, you are.
Sound vague? Let me explain a bit more.
Asynchronous Text-based – This is a lot like email. Your client writes you a message describing their issues/concerns. You write a message to your client and send it to them. Later they write a reply and send it back to you. And so on.
This is the method I use most often in my online work. I like the ability to take time to really think through what I want to say. I get to craft my words and seek out resources to share with my client without worrying that someone is waiting for a response from me. I can read ahead and get an overview of what the client is thinking/feeling and that helps me shape my sessions.
Clients also tell me they find this a valuable way to do counselling because they can the time they need and also they can read and re-read our conversations.
Real-time Chat is a scheduled time when my client and I are online and we communicate via an instant messaging system. Think back to MSN messenger. Saying that doesn’t quite do it justice but I hope it gives you an idea of how it works. I enjoy using this real-time method of counselling. There is a different sense for me of my client’s presence. Because I can hear/see their responses immediately it brings me more into the present moment with them.
I don’t know what they are going to say or how the conversation will shift or move depending on their response. As in face-to-face counselling. I used to do improvisational acting and one of my teachers used to talk about being in the “yes mode” and going with the flow. That’s what the real-time chat is like for me. I always end those sessions feeling energized.
Clients share with me that it works for them because they can schedule a time and they can do the session in a place/space that is comfortable and convenient for them. As well as – they can read and re-read our conversations.
Recently, I recommended a book to a client and before I finished my next comment she said she had ordered it. Gotta like that!
Of the three methods Videocounselling is the closest to a face-to-face counselling session. My client and I schedule a time to meet and we talk. There is no record of the conversation but clients who prefer to talk rather than write say they enjoy this method of online counselling.
There are strengths and limitations in each of these methods. It depends on what the client wants or needs. At times I have used different methods with the same client and it has provided a richer experience for both of us.
Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate counsellor with Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://therapyonline.ca/
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA