Guidance for clients seeking online counselling or psychotherapy
Online counselling and psychotherapy has grown in popularity since the 1990’s and continues to develop as a therapeutic model in its own right.
Evidence suggests that not only is it possible to create deep, emotional relationships online, but that they can closely resemble relationships formed in face-to-face therapy, whilst not replicating them.
Online counselling and psychotherapy can be a useful adjunct to traditional counselling and psychotherapy if your lifestyle and circumstances make face-to-face therapy impractical.
What is online counselling and Psychotherapy?
Like traditional counselling and psychotherapy, online therapy offers you a chance to explore any difficulties in a safe and confidential space at a time and in a place that suits you.
If you prefer to express yourself via the written word you can choose to do this via a secure email service called Hushmail, or Skype instant messaging. If you would like to have a similar counselling experience to face-to-face online then we can use Skype video, or you may prefer a combination of these approaches.
Why choose online counselling and psychotherapy?
You can’t get to see a therapist for reasons of geography, limited time or mobility
You live in a small community and you don’t want others knowing you are seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist
You are a stay at home carer and can’t get away
You like expressing yourself via the written word and you are familiar with computers
You would like the chance to reflect back on what has been said in either the emails or transcripts
You prefer the comfort of counselling and psychotherapy from home
You want to avoid long waits to see a counsellor or psychotherapist
Who is unsuitable for online counselling?
Anyone under the age of 18 years old.
Anyone who is suffering from an enduring mental illness.
Anyone who is feeling suicidal.
Anyone with a heavy dependence on drugs or alcohol.
Anyone who is experiencing current domestic violence. Please contact a local shelter for practical help and support.
Do I need to have any special technical abilities?
You don’t need to be a technical wizz to make online counselling work for you, just basic computer skills. I will provide an easy to follow step-by-step approach to getting started and keep things simple whilst ensuring your online security and safety.
How is it safe and secure?
If you prefer to use email we can use a free encrypted web-based email service called Hushmail. You will have your own user name and password which only you will have access to. After you contact me I can send a link to this and you can sign up for a free account. This enables the emails that we send to each other to be encrypted en-route and only readable by us when we sign into our respective accounts.
If you prefer the convenience of a real time therapy session rather than the delay of email responses Skype is available online as a free downloadable programme. Skype can be used as an online service to chat using instant messaging, or video and telephone calls over the internet. These Skype conversations are encrypted which means that they cannot be intercepted.
What steps does my therapist take to ensure any information I give remains confidential?
As a member of the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) I abide by their professional code of ethics. This means that I take confidentiality and your safety and security seriously. All information given to me remains confidential. I will never disclose information to a third party regarding our sessions without your written consent.
In order to comply with professional codes of conduct and the law there are some specific exceptions to confidentiality which I will outline below.
For professional development and to ensure I continue to work to a high standard I am required to take aspects of my work to supervision. Your identity will never be disclosed.
If you tell me you seriously intend to harm yourself I am required to inform your doctor but I will discuss this first with you and try to come to some resolve . Likewise if you have expressed serious intent to harm another I am required to inform the police.
If a child is in danger of harm I am required to report this also.
If you choose online counselling once you have set up a Skype or Hushmail account I will send you an assessment form asking for some details to assess your suitability for the online medium. As an online counsellor the information I request from you in the assessment form is no different to that of a face-to-face therapist required for good practise. I do not pass any information onto third parties and keep all information securely.
At the end of our work together all client work is removed from my computer and stored on a memory stick and kept in a locked filing cabinet for 7 years and then destroyed as per data protection regulations.
Records of therapeutic exchanges are legally owned by the therapist
You are not permitted to post any extracts or whole copies of any of our exchanges onto professional or social forums or to third parties. I take care to keep our information secure and protected and request that you do the same in return.
What steps do I need to take to make my information secure and confidential?
Choose a time and a place where you won’t be overheard
If you have selected to use Skype video sessions using a headset will increase your privacy
Ensure you only send confidential information via secure software. Hushmail is the highest form of encryption that covers emails, chat conversations and file exchanges. We will have discussed how to do this before we begin appointments.
Ensure your anti-virus protection is up-to-date and firewalls installed or switched on to ensure that neither your hardware nor software can be accessed by a third party
Take care to password any documents or other information stored on your hard drive. Another way is to store all information on a password protected memory stick which you keep safe
Your computer automatically keeps a history of web pages that you visit. You can either delete your history or use an incognito window which ensures your privacy.
Consider your safety. If you feel it is not safe for you to access online counselling in your immediate environment consider accessing online counselling at your local library, at work, or at a friend’s house if these venues offer you the space in which you will not be interrupted or overheard.
Social Media Policy
I take your confidentiality and safety very seriously. I will not compromise your privacy or your wellbeing in any way. For this reason I have a strict social media policy. I do not have relationships with counselling clients outside the therapeutic relationship. This extends to social media. For this reason I will not accept any clients or former clients as friends on any social networking site. It is then explicit to all that anyone connected to my site are not clients or former clients.
I keep a Facebook Page for my professional practice. This allows people to share my blog posts and keep people updated on my practice news which you are welcome to read. I do not allow clients or former clients to be followers of my page.
Is my therapist qualified to offer Online Therapy?
The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has now issued its 3rd edition of Online Codes of Ethics and Practice and are working towards ensuring that all online counsellors are experienced and qualified therapists who are additionally and specifically trained in the field of online therapy.
The Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (ACTO) similarly ensures training and membership of online therapists and has established ethical guidelines for best practice and continue to work towards its advancement.
As a fully qualified member of the BACP where I lived and trained and in line with their guidelines I trained with Online Counselling Services and Training UK and am fully qualified to offer online therapy world wide.
The practicalities of booking an online appointment?
Initially you will make contact with me via this website
I will send you a link to downloading Skype and my Skype address or a link to creating your own free Hushmail account.
When you have set up your account and have a user name you can let me know.
I will send you the counselling agreement and an assessment form via secure email or securely through Skype
Read the agreement and fill out the assessment questions, electronically sign the form and send it back to me
If you are suitable for online therapy I will let you know and we can agree an appointment time. For help with time zones see the time zone converter below
I require payment for the session 48 hours in advance. Once your appointment is confirmed I will send you a link to pay.
We will then meet online or I will answer your emails at the appointed time.
Email If you choose to use email, we will choose an ‘appointment time’ in which I will response to your emails. I encourage my clients to send their initial emails up to 48 hours before our appointment to ensure they receive the full benefit of our allocated appointment time. In your initial email you may wish to expand on what has brought you to therapy. You may tell me as little or as much as you feel comfortable to. I ask that you restrict emails to approximately 500 words to give me the opportunity of responding clearly.
Skype If you choose Skype instant message or Skype video we will meet at the appointed time online. Once we have made a connection and said ‘hello’ and we are happy that we can see and/or hear each other I will ask you what you would like to bring to the session and invite you to share as much or as little as you are comfortable with.
If you are unable to make an appointment I require 24 hours notice and we can rearrange the appointment without charge. If you do not provide 24 hours notice I reserve the right to retain the payment for the allocated session.
If we experience any unavoidable technical difficulties or there are issues arising from my end of the conversation while we are online which prevent communication another appointment can be made and my fee will be transferred to that appointment.
How can I work out the time difference for scheduling my appointment?
To choose a suitable appointment time please click here to go to the World Time Converter as the times available are for local time in Sydney, NSW, Australia time. This is also helpful for Australian residents in different time zones. If you are unsure please ask me.