Ah, technology. Wonderful when it works the way you expect! However, when you are engaged in online counselling at some point you will have one (or more) of these experiences.
Something you have spent hours on ‘disappears’. Passwords get forgotten. Video doesn’t work. Audio is not audible. Save buttons don’t save. Servers go down. Internet connections fail. Computers crash. Backups don’t backup. Power goes out.
These three words go a long way to making it easier to deal with – Plan, prepare and inform!
Give serious thought to how you will handle technological problems. Make a plan for every possible type of issue. If you have trouble coming up with a list ask anyone you know with a techy mind to help you generate ideas. Believe me they will have ideas!
Ensure you have client contact information in a secure location– phone numbers, email addresses and whether or not you can leave a message. Every time you start working with a new client be sure to print out their contact information. Printing it out means it’s accessible to you in the event your computer is the one that crashes.
Ensure clients have a way to contact you. Do they have your work phone number? I always include mine in my initial welcome/housekeeping message.
Let clients know ahead of time what will happen if there is an interruption in service. Clearly outline who will do what within what time frame. If need be, bring it to their attention more than once.
For example, in their guidelines for communicating during a computer system failure, Nottingham Trent University states, “If your computer system fails and you cannot send or receive emails you will need to contact us immediately by telephoning (number). When we receive a phone message from you, we will suspend the online counselling process until you inform us that your computer system is working again. Once we receive the information that your system is working we will reschedule another online appointment with you.
If our computer system fails and we cannot send or receive emails, we will contact you by phone and inform you of our system failure. Once the system is working again we will contact you by email informing you that we can recommence the counselling process.”
Other online counselling sites I have seen also suggest both parties (counsellor and client) assume positive intent. By that they mean – don’t assume your counsellor/client is upset with you and so has stopped communicating.
Technological problems will happen. I guarantee it. Usually when you least expect it or when it is most inconvenient!
Be prepared isn’t just a good motto for Scouts.
Dawn M Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA