Pros and Cons of Online Counselling from a Professional

The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted most businesses in one way or another. For example, some services that would typically be conducted face-to-face have turned to online video call platforms like Skype and Zoom to continue their service but virtually. One profession that has adopted this technique is counselling, but just how effective is online counselling when it is seemingly such a personal, one-on-one service? We have spoken to Catriona Graham, a professional Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Protectivity customer, to find out what the pros and cons are of this new way of working.

Q: Have you experienced any difficulties or drawbacks whilst practicing online counselling in comparison to face to face?

A. Establishing a rapport with the client is vitally important, and for those who I have only met online it can require more effort, particularly due to less chance to read and use body language to aid communication. Technical difficulties can occasionally be a challenge, for example if there is a poor connection. 

Q: What adjustments did you have to make to your business in order to accommodate online counselling?

A. The main adjustment was becoming comfortable conducting video calls! I now work from home, so I have to ensure family members don’t disturb me and I have to ensure confidentiality around emailing, phoning and storing clients’ information. I work mainly out of Crisis Counselling in Erskine and in ‘normal’ times the wonderful founder Jean and Fiona (the office manager) field all the calls regarding rescheduling appointments and the like. Since working remotely I spend a lot more time managing my diary than previously. 

Q: Do you think you are delivering the same effectiveness or bringing the same benefits to the clients?

A. While the issues covered in the first question are a consideration, clients have mentioned positives such as feeling more comfortable with letting themselves be vulnerable as they are in their home; and for those who find leaving home a challenge (perhaps due to anxiety or fatigue related to depression) it can be less stressful than attending a counselling centre in person. Overall, however I think I am still bringing benefits to my clients’ mental well-being.

Q: Have you noticed any negative consequences on your clients’ mental health during the pandemic?

A. Yes, for those who are already prone to anxiety and catastrophising this has been a difficult time, and many of the activities that help maintain and improve well-being (sport, hobbies, spending time with friends and family, being outdoors) have been curtailed to varying degrees over the past 9 months. The lack of access to other services has also impacted clients. For all of us there is a loss of connection too; people are social creatures and many people are missing the natural opportunities to speak to colleagues, customers, fellow students etc face to face and that can affect confidence and stress levels negatively.

Q: Could you please summarise the main pros and cons?

A. Pro’s: No commuting for myself or clients; safer space for some clients to talk; more flexibility with appointment times; improved confidence using video calling technology. Con’s: Technical issues during appointments; constraints around reading non-verbal communication; increased admin/diary management time; no longer having the company and peer support of my colleagues outwith client contact.

While many people may not have considered online counselling as an option until lockdown forced us to take a lot of our lives online, it proved to be effective and needed especially during these difficult times. By offering online sessions, professional therapists have made counselling accessible to many people who otherwise would not be able to receive treatment. As more research demonstrates its effectiveness, online therapy is becoming increasingly popular.

At Protectivity, we provide a wide range of what we believe are cost-effective insurance solutions for professional therapies including Counselling Insurance. To see if your profession can be covered, just visit our Therapy Insurance page. If we can cover the activity, we will provide you with an instant quote.

About Catriona Graham

Cat has a BA in Community Education, COSCA Certificate in Counselling Skills and a Post Graduate Diploma in CBT. She is registered with BACP, PVG certified and fully insured.

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