Online v Face to Face Counselling

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Online v face-to-face counselling – your questions answered!

When consdiering online v face-to-face counselling, people often ask, ‘What is the difference between online and face to face counselling?’, ‘Does online cousnelling work?’, or ‘What is online psychotherapy?’.  Here are the answers to these and other questions.

So, what is the difference between counselling & psychotherapy?

Firstly, let’s answer the question about the difference between counselling and psychotherapy. Counselling usually refers to a brief treatment that centres around behaviour patterns.  Psychotherapy focuses on working with clients longer-term to gain deeper insight into emotional problems and difficulties.  However, these two terms generally seem to be interchangable.

People also ask ‘Can I do online counselling?’  The answer to this is question is… yes! And people have been engaging in online therapy for a while now.  For instance, the NHS announced at the end of 2019 that over 300,000 patients in the UK now use digital forms of therapy.  This includes online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) courses to patients “seeing” their therapists through various types of video software. (s May 2020)

Is online counselling like face to face counselling?

The experience of online sessions can be very similar to face to face counselling, especially if the counselling is via video call, such as Zoom.  Online counselling also includes counselling by phone, which some clients prefer.  Online can include ‘chat’ by text or messaging service and email.  Well Minds Online provides video and telephone counselling, but we don’t provide counselling by chat or email.

‘Can online counselling work?’ or ‘Is it counselling effective?’

These are common questions when people are considering online v face-to-face counselling.  There has been lots of research and many articles written about the effectiveness of online counselling, undoubtably due to the impact of the COVID 19 Lockdown where face to face counselling was suspended.  The summary of this research is that there are advantages and disadvantages of both online and face to face counselling.

The benefits of online counselling are the accessibility and convenience.  There is no waiting room which some people prefer as they don’t like having to visit the counsellor’s room and they feel more comfortable in their own environment.  Some people are put off by entering a building under a sign saying ‘Counselling’.  With online counselling there is no travelling.  In addition, it is available at evenings and weekends so it can be more convenient for some peoples’ lifestyles.

The disadvantages are that the technology and internet or broadband connections can sometimes fail.  And you can generally only see the head and shoulders of the your counsellor.

The benefits for face to face counselling is the more personal experience of seeing the counsellor in the flesh and being able to see all of them, not just head and shoulders.

In summary, the answer to the questions is that it depends on the client’s preferences.

How is online counselling done?

Some people are interested in finding out how online counselling works or how it’s done.

Counsellors are well trained to work with clients online.  The client’s safety is always our first priority.  We will make sure we have the name of someone we can contact in the event of an emergency, for example if the client becomes ill during a session. We ask for the client’s GP details so that we can, with the client’s consent, speak to their GP if we feel that they need medical help or are at risk, for instance feeling suicidal.

Counsellors will also consider how we can best work with clients online because some of the approaches used with a client face to face might not work when online. For example, a technique using two chairs and the client swaps chairs to see things from another point of view. Although, some counsellors have used this technique by video call, and it has worked well for the client!

With video technology, counsellors are able to show the client diagrams, images and pictures that they would usually use face to face, by sharing their screen, meaning there are very few things that counsellors are unable to do online.

What can I expect from video call counselling?

People often ask about the differences between online and face to face counselling.  With video calling, you can see your counsellor and they can see you, so it is the closest thing to face to face counselling in terms of experience.  Often, you can both see each other with a head and shoulders view so some body language and gestures are unseen. So, the counsellor will ask a question where they would otherwise read reactions, but that does not seem to get in the way.

Technology and connections can be a challenge sometimes.  However, we agree what will happen if we have a technology failure or if we lose connection.  In those cases we will generally carry on with the session on the phone.

What kinds of things can online counselling support with?

Recently, people have been searching the internet for things such as ‘Online relationship counselling for couples’. In addition,  ‘Online counselling for anxiety’ and ‘Online counselling for depression’ are popular searches.  We can support our clients by phone or by video call for a wide range of emotional difficulties including anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues and bereavement. We can also provide support for couples.

An interesting search carried out recently is ‘Online counselling near me’.  A huge benefit of being online is that you can work with anyone across the UK.  Therefore, if counselling is expensive in your area, there is limited availability or support for a particular issue is not available, it is no longer a problem!  Clients are not restricted to the area where they live. So, clients have more choice!  If you live in a remote area or have no access to transport – no problem, we can bring the counsellor to you, by phone or by video call.

How to start online counselling?

This is another frequently asked question and the answer to this question is easy.  You can book a free initial consultation to talk through your needs and ask any other questions you have.  We will then match you with a counsellor who meets your needs.  You chose the method (either phone or video call) and you can book your counselling sessions online too.

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