Hello and welcome to my virtual office. If I could, I’d be stretching out my hand to offer you a warm handshake and I’d give you my most welcoming smile and saying – “Please come on in and have a seat. If you were actually entering my office you would see that I have chairs set up for us. The aim here is to create a sense that we are in the same room together [as much as is possible in this virtual space!]. I invite you to make yourself comfortable and take your time reading my blog post.
This gives you a fairly typical example of how I start my online counselling sessions. I wanted to give you a little taste of what it’s like as we begin an ongoing conversation about online counselling.
If you Google the words “online counselling” you will get over 3 million hits! If you limit your search to ‘pages from Canada’ – you get just over 130,000. Now if you were to also search for ecounselling, cybercounselling, distance counselling, virtual counselling, web counselling, etherapy, online therapy, cybertherapy, web therapy, virtual therapy (I could go on but you get the idea!) you start to get a sense of just how ubiquitous this modality of counselling has become. Indeed, almost all of Canada’s Employee Assistance Programs offer Online Counselling as part of their service packages.
There are many different platforms you can use to do online counselling (email, chat, skype, online groups, discussion forums) and you can choose to do counselling in real time or asynchronously [more on all of this and what it means as we go along].
How long has it been in use? Therapy Online started delivering services to clients via email in 1995. I personally have been working as an online counsellor for almost six years and it has been a fascinating journey [reflecting on all that I have learned in that time].
The biggest question I had at the beginning was “Can you actually DO counselling online? Does it work?”. It’s a question I hear from a lot of counsellors…well, actually, it’s something I hear from almost anyone I talk to about the subject. You say the words “I do counselling online” and there’s a pause as they think about how to respond. Then they say, “Ummm, how does that work?” in a puzzled tone.
I can understand the puzzlement. Typically, when people think about counselling, personal, face-to-face connections come to mind. When we picture someone going to counselling we usually think of an office, a private space, someone who will listen and give immediate feedback. It can be hard to imagine that you can create an effective therapeutic alliance in a virtual way. And yet, over six years I have seen it work and clients have told me again and again that it works.
The comments or views expressed in this blogpost are personal.
Dawn Schell, MA is an Affiliate Counsellor with Therapy Online www.therapyonline.ca
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA