Online counselling – yay or nay?

Online counselling and psychotherapy sessions have become the norm since COVID-19. Whether you like them or not, they are here to stay. Let’s explore the pros and cons of online therapy.

Pro – convenience and flexability

As long as you are in a private space and no one can hear you, you can attend your counselling session anywhere you like. I have spoken to people whilst in their car, wardrobe, cupboards, you name it. Pop in a set of headphones and you can have your session walking in a park – no one will pay attention and can only hear one side of the conversation. Just let your therapist know, after all, confidentiality is important.

Being busy shouldn’t stop you from attending online sessions. They are flexible and can be scheduled during your lunch break or even when you’re on the road.

You and your counsellor can still attend sessions even if you are feeling unwell but still want to attend your sessions, the same goes with your therapist. We understand the importance of not spreading germs.

Pro – geographic locations

Online counselling ignores borders, allowing you to access therapy from virtually anywhere in the world. Whether you’re exploring bustling cities, serene beaches, or remote villages. This also goes for if you live in rural areas, the middle of Australia, work FIFO or on a fishing boat in the middle of the ocean. As long as you have a decent internet connection you can connect with your therapist. Remember to check your time zones, you might not wish to have a 3 am counselling session.

Pro – specialisations

If you are searching for a particular specialisation, like kink-friendly counselling, it may not be available in your local area. However, with online counselling, you can access professional counsellors and psychotherapists from anywhere in the country. This means that your options are now limitless.

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Pro – privacy

Imagine this. You are living in a town of 1200 people. There are two counsellors to choose from. The town is one of those places where everyone knows everything about you. Are you going to want to see one of the two counsellors with the risk that someone will see you (your privacy means the world to you)? Online counselling offers that privacy. No one will ever know you are attending sessions unless you tell them.

Pro – most therapy styles can be practised professionally

In terms of online counselling, I have not yet encountered a counselling framework or style that cannot be used. Of course, it’s different if we need to physically touch a part of the body to access it, but with counselling, we don’t typically have to rely on physical touch.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, counsellors have successfully adapted their practices to offer online services, including EMDR therapy and games to support children. Online group therapy sessions have been proven to help remove isolation and assist in connecting with others.

Pro – extra layer of protection

Some of the things you want to work on are difficult for you to talk through – especially face-to-face. I get that, your parts are holding shame and would prefer some extra protection as you talk about them. Online counselling offers that, as do phone sessions. The screen offers a barrier between you and your counsellor. I have received feedback from clients about the added layer of perceived protection allowing them to share things they would never mention in the office.

The same goes for the environment. Sitting in a therapy office may be difficult for you, it hinders you from opening up as you have had negative experiences before. Being able to stay at home in comfort (including PJs) can offer an extra level of protection for you. That is perfectly okay! We do what we need to do to make counselling work best for you.

fixing broken internet connection

Cons – technical issues

Battery issues, bad connections, and programs not working are all issues we have to work around by having online counselling sessions. One day everything works fine, the next they are glitching. Sometimes it’s pot luck on whats will work and what won’t.

Cons – communication issues

One major complaint about online counselling and therapy is the lack of connection between client and therapist. There is truth in this – missed body language and the slightest facial cues can hinder the connections between all involved. Some individuals have stated they feel further away and distant due to the screen.

Con – privacy concerns

Even though I included privacy concerns as a positive, it can also be a negative. You may have taken every precaution to be in a private area, but there is no guarantee someone will not walk into the room or overhear you. As for leaked or hacked programs, ask your therapist if the program they are using is telehealth-compliant to help ease your mind.

Online counselling offers a range of benefits, including convenience, accessibility, flexibility, and privacy. It breaks down geographical barriers, making therapy accessible to individuals regardless of where you are. However, it’s important to acknowledge the potential drawbacks, such as technological issues, privacy concerns, and perceived lack of connection. Despite these challenges, many individuals find online counselling to be a valuable and effective form of mental health support. By being aware of these drawbacks and actively addressing them, both clients and therapists can maximise the benefits of online counselling while mitigating potential risks. Ultimately, online counselling is not going anywhere. Is it time you embraced it?

Kellie Payne Psychotherapist and Counsellor, Midland, Perth

About the author

Kellie Sheldon is the owner and operator of Kellie Sheldon Trauma and Sex Counselling in Midland, Western Australia. She holds a Master of Counselling Practice from Tabor College in Perth. Specialising in trauma and sexual therapy, she focuses on aiding adults in forming secure connections. With a particular interest in kink, BDSM and trauma, she is adept in techniques like EMDR to assist clients in processing negative and traumatic memories. Kellie is a firm advocate for therapy's potential to alleviate symptoms stemming from childhood or relationship trauma. Her primary goal is to accompany her clients on their journey toward healing, recognising that healing involves not just addressing past events but also acknowledging what hasn't occurred.

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