Hello [waving a hand in greeting]. Welcome back! In my last post I said I would be talking about how to convey “presence” throughout an online counselling session. So – let’s see [thinking out loud]. I’ll tell you about three important techniques I have learned and show you some examples. I invite you to make yourself comfortable. Ready? Let’s get to work [rolling up my sleeves].
When I talk about online counselling a common response is “non-verbals are such a big part of our communication. How do you deal with that? Isn’t it easy to misunderstand each other?” One counsellor said that she thought online counselling would be “cold and clinical”, with no way to show warmth, empathy or humanness.
I understand the concerns. Text-only can be challenging. However, there are ways to address the lack of tone of voice and non-verbals in text-based counselling work. Lawrence Murphy and Dan Mitchell of Therapy Online have developed techniques such as Emotional Bracketing, Descriptive Immediacy and Descriptive Imagery (amongst others).
The point in using techniques such as these is to: bring the client into the room with you, create an immediacy of experience, assist them to understand or ‘see’ the non-verbals (i.e. thoughts, feelings, tone of voice), minimize the chance they will misinterpret what is said, and give them an opportunity to ensure they have been ‘heard’ correctly. Most importantly, these techniques are aimed at deepening the therapeutic connection and engendering change.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA