Counsellors and psychotherapists are suddenly turning to online practice to continue seeing their clients. For many, this is a new concept. As a trained and experienced online supervisor I have witnessed many practitioners starting to learn to use Zoom or Vsee which can be used for encrypted online sessions. There are other platforms available, however one needs to check they are helpful, safe and confidential for therapeutic sessions but this is only one aspect of working online

Contracts, session fees, confidentiality and internet security etc are all being raised, however the unexpected parts of what to do in the unlikely event of a technology failure, have not been mentioned very much. If you enjoy working online getting some training will mean you will be proficient and work for organisations or EAPs that might want trained counsellors/ psychotherapists.

As an online psychotherapist I did training to be both an online psychotherapist and online supervisor. I realised 5 areas that can impinge a session which are listed below.

What might occur that can disrupt a session?

  1. The door – Delivery drivers can be quite determined when trying to drop off either home or neighbours’ packages. Leaning on the doorbell or banging the door loudly can cause a disturbance. Do not disturb sign on the door can sometime be helpful. If in a video session your client will be able to see your reaction like eyes rolling up or facial annoyance. It helps to say it’s because of the door so clients don’t worry they caused the reaction.

2. The phone – While in F2F sessions we turn off our phones however when working from home the house phone can be problematic. In a time when coronavirus is present family or others may phone, since they are worried. An answer machine with the volume turned down can help.

3. Beings – other adults, children and pets can be complicated as they don’t always understand about confidentiality. Now that schools are closing the younger ones may be at home so plans of action can be helpful. When I started online counselling via video sessions, I explained I can’t be disturbed. My teen understood and while trying to explain to my partner about confidentiality said ‘the only way you can be in the same room when she’s in a session is if your dead’; yes, strongly worded but it worked.

  1. Some pets may like to lay on your lap, bark for dogs or play up which, yes is normal behaviour for these beings, however it will disturb a session. Some clients may be allergic or fear dogs so barking might set off anxiety. Having other sorts of pets can also concern clients such as snakes, ferrets, parrots etc, keep in mind clients may have pets with them so if you’re nervous of tarantula or snake in a container on the shelf behind your client that you can see may disturb you.

Not all practitioners live in big houses so creating a confidential space can take some work. I work in one room and put a note on the  door saying In Session. Your client or supervisees will also need to make a confidential safe which might mean sessions in their car  which isn’t ideal but is doable.

  1. Appliances – Washing machines, some refrigerators, dishwashers and kettles can be noisy so don’t turn them on just before a session. It can help saying to your client/supervisee that it can help for both to do similar. Those living in the home might go for a tea or coffee and if the noise is heard in session during a quieter part explain the kettle is not near the session room.
  1. Check programs and internet strength – Computers and webpage sites can have an annoying habit of needing an update just before sessions so turn your computer on way before session so you can start at the session time. Have a backup plan like the phone if you lose the internet connection. As time goes on during these extreme times at home there may be someone watching YouTube video, having all mobile devices on and livestreaming programmes at the same time which can interfere with the signal strength. It can be difficult even if you live alone as so many people are moving to online work on mass. To prepare a client/supervisee explain if a session suddenly stops you will try platform again to contact or use the phone.

Working online is an in-depth and rewarding experience. It does require an increased emphasis on self-care.

In these times of lockdown where our usually patterns of self -care may not be available to us, perhaps embarking on professional training around online practice could offer a chance for us to create a support network where we could once again feel connected and have some fun.

Do check out our range of professional trainings and CPD’s options which are available to view at onlinetrainingforcounsellors

Olivia is an online psychotherapist, counsellor, supervisor and tutor. When not working, she lives with and assists a special needs adult who uses a wheelchair for mobility and another adult with autism. Olivia volunteers for the RAF talking to ex-military about their experiences. Lived experience is down to her type-1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, so has times to rest or reduce working hours to be at her best for clients and supervisees.

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