I wonder how your second week of online practice has been? NCS Registrant Suzie Mosson, a director of Online Training for Counsellors, has some expert advice for practitioners making this move. Whether you have stepped into cyberspace, or still considering it here are some points to help along the way.
There is a lot of information coming through social media groups in addition to webinars, free courses and sage advice from seasoned professionals. A short-term online service is needed to manage client anxiety and keep the continuity of sessions. Therapists are being told not to worry, counselling via webcam is just like face to face counselling. It will all be fine.
But will it?
To practise online, you need to be competent in the online approach – and that’s not about being technologically competent, although that is certainly helpful. If you are finding your proficiency isn't quite what you thought it was for remote therapy now is the time to refer to a therapist who is online trained. It’s embedded in your code of ethics, no-matter which membership body you belong to. If it’s working out not too badly for you here are some key steps to keep you going.
Your Supervisor is Your Friend
If you haven’t approached an online supervisor now is the time to do so. Their experience and training will help you feel supported when things go wrong – and they will.
It’s a concern if therapists are not checking they are covered for this way of working. I understand the telephone lines are busy and emails are as yet unanswered. It's just another of the hurdles therapists are having to face. Be patient and keep trying to make contact if the details are not obvious on your policy. Your clients will appreciate your stance.
Spaces for Online Therapy
With a precarious income renting a counselling room may no longer be an option. Working from home may not be ideal either if you have partners, children or even a noisy dog at home. Take some time to disguise your bedroom wallpaper and put a sign on the door to ensure you are not disturbed. Use a chair & not your bed and don’t, please, think its ok to still be in pyjama’s – even if your client does.
Programmes and Programmes
How did you get on with the programme you downloaded? As an organisation, we use professional versions of the programme you may have chosen. The connection of the last week has been awful! As professional online counsellors and supervisors, we adapted easily and quickly. Make sure you have a second option to change if your programme is suffering from overload.
Take a step back and consider whether your payment method has worked for you. It's ok to change it if not. With economic crisis approaching at an ever-increasing pace it's important you feel able to talk about money, charge your fee and not take up a role of accidental debt collector. Your record keeping will likely need adapting a little so take a look at that in your quieter times.
Crisis Upon Crisis
Today is not likely to be the same as tomorrow. Your contact that you updated last week may need some more verbal adjusting this week. Check out the agencies who normally support your client that they are still able to do so. There may be reduced or increased opening hours. Their service may be entirely online or via telephone. Generally, our practices are not an emergency service. This may be a time where your boundary feels tested on that. Speak to your supervisor if it's difficult to hold it.
Embrace the Dynamics!
Online therapy is rewarding, and with the proper preparation can be the right solution for you and your client. Your client will want you to succeed. They need you and with authenticity and congruence about trails & difficulties the therapeutic alliance has a chance to deepen to another level. Go well! Online Training for Counsellors has training aimed at all levels, including an online diploma in supervision. It is offering small group training over the coming weeks. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Suzie is a Co-Director of Online Training for Counsellors Ltd, a Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist, Supervisor and Tutor. She has a face to face private practice in addition to her online therapeutic work. She contributed two chapters to Online Supervision: A Handbook for Practitioners, edited by Anne Stokes of which she is very proud.