Online counselling and therapy session

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?

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BDSM and therapy – Time to remove the shame.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had two clients express how grateful they have found me.

Grateful as they do not have to hide who they are. Grateful they can sit in my room and speak of their adventures confidently, they will not be judged or shamed.

Grateful I am as open as I am in my advertising and communication around kink and BDSM.

Previously, these clients have experienced unpleasant experiences from other therapists or have not felt comfortable speaking of their preferences. Let’s face it, speaking of any mental health issue can be shadowed by shame or other feelings resulting in us, as humans, hiding away and not being willing to face them. I can tell you I have sat across from a couple of professionals and felt I needed to be silence as my conversation was making them uncomfortable. During my time at university, I have sat in a classroom and listened to a lecturer shape minds around those who enjoy leather, flogging, or sleep with teddy bears as adult.

When you understand the history of kink and BDSM in professional circles, especially psychologists, you can see why they think and feel the way they do. Since 1952, fetish, kink, BDSM or any sexual behaviour that was seen outside of the norm was classified as a mental illness. This included homosexuality, the powers that be decided any non-mainstream sexality was a sociopathic personality disorder. Thankfully we have come a long way, or have we?

..any mainstream sexual activity was a sociapathic personality disorder..

Psychologists are known for treating clients according to the DSM (Diagnositc Statictical Manual). They are trained under the medical model. The DSM is their bible, rarely to they stray from it. I am familiar with the DSM, I also believe any person can find themselves with a diagnosis from the manual. With such a prestigious manual stating non-mainstream sexual behaviours are not normal, why would anyone who is trained in mental health think it is anything but normal?

A revision in 1987 (DSM-III-R) moved BSDM and kink from a sexual deviation listing to being a disorder. Now, if you are kinky you have a mental disorder. Disturbingly, children were being taken away from their parents by family courts because their sexual appetite included spankings or more than missionary position.

‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’

and/or

‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’

In 2009, Richard Krueger raised concerned for how stigma and bullying within workplaces, family courts, etc were impacting the BDSM and kink community. He stated the behaviour towards these communities created high levels of stress and was contributing towards a mental health issue, not the sexual behaviours themselves.

May 2013 the DSM-5 was released. Victory, but has the damage been done?

“A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.”

Moving forward I have been in conversations with clinicians who are open to understanding and learning more, also the opposite. The myths are still believed.

The last thing I want for our BDSM community is an underlying fear of walking into a therapists office and being shamed for enjoying breath play or being blindfolded and tied to a St Andrews Cross.

My aim is to change the way therapists and the wider community see kink and BDSM.

I am not saying everyone should like it, everyone should do it, and everyone should be into spankings. If that’s the case, I am going against one of the biggest pillers of the community – consent.

However, you can sit in my room. You can talk about your vanilla sex life, or you can talk about how much you enjoy primal or pet play. There is no judgement.

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Reasons to think outside mental health plans for therapy

Life is hard. Let’s face it, even at times, it’s downright dreadful! It has this way of throwing everything at us all at once. We try and lean sideways to dodge it. Sometimes we are winners, and other times, it hits us like a pie in the face.

We are constantly told talking about our emotions and feelings is normal and important. There is truth in that, and we must be okay with expressing what hurts us. We know who we talk to makes all the difference.

The most used option is a trip to your GP to request a mental health plan under the better health scheme. Realistically, why not? You are eligible for a few free or cheaper sessions. It’s a no-brainer, right? Sometimes though, it’s not always the right choice.

When you have a persistent sense of heartbreak and gutwrench, the physical sensations become intolerable and we will do anything to make those feelings disappear. And that is really the origin of what happens in human pathology. People take drugs to make it disappear, and they cut themselves to make it disappear, and they starve themselves to make it disappear, and they have sex with anyone who comes along to make it disappear and once you have these horrible sensations in your body, you’ll do anything to make it go away.

Bessel A. van der Kolk

What are your options?

Currently, under the medicare scheme in Australia, psychologists and mental health social workers can accept a mental health plan entitling you to 10 sessions per calendar year. Predominately, there is a gap fee and a waiting list to see a psychologist.

The alternative is you can access counsellors or psychotherapists. If you are concerned about qualifications, this is displayed on their website, or you can ask. Many counsellors and psychotherapists are highly trained and have similar qualifications to registered psychologists, and most are trained in specialist fields instead of generalists.

Before getting a mental health plan, there is information you need to be aware of.

The medical model

For a psychologist to obtain payment for your session from the government, they are usually required to list a code for a diagnosis. Under the scheme guidelines, the diagnosis will stay on your case file with Medicare. This is problematic as you may not need a diagnosis.

Sometimes we are going through a few things and need some help to process them or move forward. Big feelings or emotions are normal when experiencing grief, loss, relationship stress, work stress, or illness. These emotions will be anxiety, sadness, anger, fear, hopelessness, and depression. It is important to understand these feelings are expected and come and go with what is happening in our life. They do not always mean you have a mental illness or need to be diagnosed with one to get help from a therapist.

Your treatment plans are limited

The treatment choice under a mental health care plan is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). For some people, this works well; for others, it doesn’t. Therapy is not a one size fits all model.

Psychotherapists and counsellors are trained to look beyond the here and now. They will listen to your health concerns and rule them out first or work with them on a mind, body, and soul treatment plan. It is important to look at everything around you, even to travel back in time and explore your childhood or how trauma is passed through the generations.

There are many other treatment styles available. Psychotherapists and counsellors are trained to explore many of them at once. Furthermore, YOU are in control of your treatment. We will work with you and give you options for your treatment.

Registration with the Australian Counselling Association or PACFA requires ongoing clinical supervision and training. You can be confident your psychotherapist or counsellor is well prepared and highly trained.

Duty to disclose

Your diagnosis will be permanently stored on the Medicare database. Insurance companies can access your records and adjust your premiums if requested.

Working outside the medical model means your information is bound under the client-therapist confidentiality agreement. We do not report to anyone outside of our practice unless court-ordered.

You can choose your therapist

Research shows the relationship between client and therapist is the most important aspect of your therapy. Having a chat with a potential therapist allows you to feel confident in who you will be working with before you commit to sessions.

You can email, look at their website, check their socials, or even ring for a quick chat before booking an appointment. If you feel a little nervous about your session, this can assist in minimising any discomfort.

Relationship and marriage counselling

Relationship or marriage counselling is currently not available under a mental health plan. Therapists must be trained to work with couples, and doctors are more likely to refer to psychologists trained for individuals.

Therapy is a personal journey. Exercise your right to choose what that therapy looks like. It can be the difference in how your healing looks. Find a therapist who you feel comfortable with and who aligns with your values. You have the choice.

If you would like more information, reach out today.