The value of remote or telephone counselling...

The value of remote or telephone counselling...


Mon 18 January

The value of remote or telephone counselling for short term work if ‘in person’ sessions are not possible.

Article written by Laura Griffiths, YBTC Counsellor
Telephone Counselling

Some years ago, as a counsellor who had been providing face to face counselling for years,  I learnt that within my new job at the time, I would mainly be providing telephone counselling. I will admit that even I wondered whether it would be as good as face to face. How can the counselling relationship develop if you are not in the same room? And you can’t see the person you are supporting?

However, I quickly realised that not only is the relationship able to be just as strong, but that there are also some additional advantages, that perhaps people considering seeking counselling, hadn’t thought about;

  • ANONYMITY      when not sitting opposite the Counsellor, some clients find it easier to open up, and talk about difficult issues, meaning the work becomes more useful more quickly.
  • FOCUS  Having counselling over the phone means there can be less distraction, and there can be a deeper focus and attention on what is being said by both parties.
  • TIME SAVING    not having to travel for your sessions saves time and anxiety getting there.
  • FAMILIARITY      of being in your home, where you can feel more relaxed, and in control.
Remote/Online Counselling

Events over the past year have made us within the counselling profession adjust to a new way of working, as there has had to be a major shift from ‘in person’ over to online counselling, i.e. Zoom or WhatsApp.

The majority of clients that I had been seeing were in person, so I was slightly apprehensive about getting used to the technology, both for me and my clients. But actually, once you knew what you were doing, it was so straight forward and once we got started it almost felt as though the sessions had always been carried out this way.

I can honestly say, that, particularly for short term therapy, online works incredibly well, and that outcomes have been just as good in my experience, as they would have been for ‘in person’ counselling – clients engage just as well (see below for the occasional exception!), and report feeling supported, as well as the benefit of the therapeutic relationship in the same way as client’s reported when having sessions in person.

The pitfalls……..I have experienced some downsides, to both telephone and online;

  • When connection fails! But actually this is quite rare, and when it does happen repeatedly, I have quickly switched to another medium for the remainder of that session, i.e. from Zoom to WhatsApp, and vice versa or on to the telephone, without too much disruption.
  • When client’s get distracted……. It is not uncommon for clients to be eating breakfast, or moving around the house whilst the session is taking place, perhaps carrying out household chores, which means it is hard to keep focused on the issue. If it is a brief or one off interruption, it’s not too much of a problem, but if it persists, it will be something to be discussed, as I would worry that the client is not fully prioritising this time for themselves, which in itself can be a really useful conversation around their self-care.
  • Disruption – e.g. if the doorbell goes, which would normally just be a postal delivery, so fairly brief, or perhaps a child or pet entering the room. Again, brief disruptions generally do not present a problem, it is only if it is consistent then we would need to discuss whether this was working, but I have never experienced this to date.
Of course, for some the added bonus of having some precious time out of the house, and to be able to talk in a neutral space is part of the value of their experience. For others, having sessions at home is just not an option, if for example there is no privacy, or someone may just not feel comfortable opening up within their home environment. In these circumstances ‘in person’ counselling may still be the only option, along with others who just prefer to be speaking face to face, as opposed to remotely.
 
The counselling profession will no doubt be carrying out research as we speak, on all of what has been touched on in this article, and it will be interesting to see what the conclusions are about how both Counsellors and clients have adapted to remote counselling, but I am pretty sure that online counselling will be here to stay, even once the impact of the pandemic is no longer being felt.

To speak to us about counselling or other support we offer please call us on 0113 340 0111 or email support@yorksbtc.org.uk


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