What is Online Counselling?

Online counselling is counselling provided to people over the internet. Both counsellor and client must have access to a computer with an internet connection. It can come in various forms but typically online counselling is provided via email, through text messages, voice and video links as well as chat rooms and message boards. Many people will be familiar with these types of communication and such a way of interacting has become a natural and easy part of life. Online counselling can be provided to an individual or a group, in the same way as face-to-face counselling can Online Therapy
Online counselling is also known as: web counselling, e-counselling, e-therapy, and internet counselling.

Is it safe?

Since online counselling means that the counsellor usually remains invisible to the client, it can sometimes be asserted that it is dangerous. This is why it is important that you have as much information about your counsellor as possible. Checking your counsellor’s credentials, including membership of a counselling organization helps as you can verify that the person is in fact a counsellor and not faking it. Remember, even people you see face-to-face can call themselves counsellors and attempt to ‘fix’ your problems. As such it is not online counselling itself that could be dangerous; rather it is the risk that your counsellor is neither credible nor ethical.
That being said, there are advantages and disadvantages which are unique to online counselling, which you need to consider before engaging with an online counsellor.

Advantages of online counselling

You do not have to visit an office to see a counsellor. Counselling can be carried out in the comfort and safety of your own home.
Nobody need know you are seeing a counsellor as it can be used at your convenience.
It saves time, travel and child care costs.
It is easily accessible.
Costs can be kept down as your counsellor does not have to rent office space.
If using email or message board counselling, you can read and write your messages at any time, convenient to you. This also gives time to compose a well thought-out response.
You only have to communicate with your counsellor; there is no receptionist or support worker to deal with.
Some people feel less inhibited being able to communicate online, and so open up more. This can result in a greater therapeutic outcome.
You are able to come back and review messages or reread your emails at any time. You cannot do this with traditional counselling.
Disadvantages of online counselling

With traditional counselling, the counsellor ensures privacy by providing a room that is private and free from disturbance. However, with online counselling, it is up to you to protect your privacy and limit disruptions.

Text and chat

If communication is text-based, you will not be able to say as much, since communication is slower.
Unless web cameras are used, you will not be able to see your counsellor so non-verbal signals will be lost. As such, misunderstandings may arise.
Connection problems could make it difficult for chat sessions to be effective.
If email is used, other people could access your messages, unless you set up an account that only you know the password to. As such, confidentiality may be breached.
Also with email, messages may not be received or be forwarded on to someone else accidentally.
With email and message board counselling, you will have to wait to receive a reply.
What are the alternatives to online counselling?
Face to face counselling
Telephoning a counselling helpline
Attend a support group
Talk to a friend or family member
Talk to your doctor
Read a self-help book
Do nothing at all
Copyright Julia Barnard

You can discover many other ways to take control of your life and boost your happiness, wellbeing and confidence through Julia Barnard’s book Promoting Happiness: a workbook to help you appreciate and get the most out of your life.

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