Just over one year ago I was setting up my private counselling practice, fresh from graduation. Having over 25 years working with people and as a therapist and a nurse, building therapeutic relationships had always involved a physical proximity and a degree of intimacy. Whilst helping me with some of the IT side of my business setup, my 15 year old son suggested I could provide counselling online. This evoked my immediate response, “Not for me, thanks!". True to myself, I was intrigued to analyze my initial strong aversion to this. What was it that made me feel scared of this idea? I can provide two strong elements which brought about a flurry of jumbled concerns. Firstly, SAFETY…….for me, this the ultimate deal breaker. So much to think about…where to begin. Then what about Intimacy in the therapeutic relationship? How do I reconcile this with computers and technology in my ways of working? Having accumulated a jumbled array of thoughts and emotions on this subject, I was thankful for the opportunity to attend a presentation held at Counselling Northwest by Pauline Summers. In order to be in a position to make informed choices I was keen to attend, to share thoughts, knowledge, experience with others members.

The title of this presentation was therefore of particular interest to me, as I have been giving this subject some genuine consideration. In many ways I feel it is inevitable to ‘get on board’ with the whole social media revolution, albeit an ever changing interface. To be completely honest, I only agreed to write this article because the idea scared me! So I hoped I might learn something from my experience. As a relatively ‘new’ qualified counsellor, with my own private practice, I am keen to enable prospective clients’ enhanced accessibility whilst addressing the ever changing needs and possible expectations from counselling.

The idea of understanding how online counselling works, the technical nightmares I envisage, not to mention the ethical and legal ramifications. Surely, the sensible approach would be to just ignore the whole subject matter? I have a sneaking suspicion that is not an option. I confess, only several days before I was due to attend Counselling North West to hear Pauline’s presentation about ‘online counselling’, I was asked by a regular ‘face to face’ client whether I was able to provide online counselling for his next scheduled session, as he was travelling abroad. He was keen not to miss his next session. This highlighted a need to decide if and how I could achieve a provision for online counselling effectively and professionally. I have to be prepared to make an informed choice about how I can provide a professional service. I am a keen advocate of promoting counselling/psychotherapies to become a non-stigmatized part of our holistic healthy approach towards our mental and physical well-being. Much the same way in which we are encouraged to strive for physical health through healthy eating and exercise, thus, I see a holistic approach can be attainable through easier access to mental health care facilities. I consider the need, inevitability, benefits and potential disadvantages of online counselling.

Not yet swayed or convinced either way to provide online counselling, in the infancy of my career, this presentation gave me an opportunity to organize my random thoughts on a subject I will inevitably need to address, if for only one reason…I opt in and be prepared, or choose not to engage in this particular delivery of service.
Nichole Faulkner