OCTIA 2017 Conference

The OCTIA (Online Counselling and Therapeutic Internet Association) conference began Friday night with a presentation on Internet and Ethics by Debbie van den Berg. She pointed out many ways one’s computer can be affected followed by problems like malware and what may be helpful in those situations. Encryption was explained as it’s important for online counselling work. She also made the point that HTTPS, a secure hypertext transfer protocol, before a website indicated it was the safe site. Due to the fact, smart phones are being used frequently she indicated that much older phones may not be able to update so they were not as safe to use. Her input was so important for everyone to learn.

The first person to open OCTIA conference on the following day was Gill Webb who discussed online counselling and how far it has come since she started. She was followed by Stephanie Palin, she explained it was the first-year OCTIA was held in Edinburgh as Bristol had been where the conference was held for the past number of years. The full day of talks started after the introductions and was titled: Being a Smart Counsellor in a Digital World – apps, platforms and ethics.

John Wilson who helps run Onlinevents https://www.onlinevents.co.uk/ was the first presenter on April 1 and spoke of the work he did and how Onlinevents was born at the same time OCTIA had their first conference. He talked about the growth of his company and another one he ran called Temenos which helps train councillors and psychotherapists. He covered areas such as ethical frameworks within COSCA and BACP, keeping safe online and in-person. He also pointed out there are 1.86 billion monthly active Facebook users which is approximately a third of the planet’s population. It indicated how far the work of online counsellors could help many people worldwide.

Jayne Nairn spoke next with her presentation called The Challenges of Working with Young People Online. She introduced us to her website called http://www.cool2talk.org/ that helps and educates young people who need a place they can gain information and get some online counselling. Many of the teenagers that use this service find online work easier to access than talking in person. In one year 22, 709 people contacted this organisation for assistance and information. There is also a database for professional people. The site has a lot of information and also games teenagers can use if they need to wait to talk to a counsellor. It sounded a great resource for young people who feel awkward asking for help from their peers or guardians.

Catherine Knibbs spoke next on Cybertrauma which has been a growing problem since many younger people from the age of 2 upwards are online either on tablets or phones. The brain of a child is still in development during the early years to tell the difference between trauma they see in person and trauma they see online. As news is on continuously young people are also bombarded with chaotic images that are shown in our news programmes. There were also discussions on cyber bullying and the many formats that may take in a child’s or teenager’s life. As so many people in general are using phones there is even physical problems such as text neck which is caused due to the spine been affected as so many of us are leaning down to look at our phones continuously. There are also addictions to online games and this is partly due to the online game companies being sold to be addictive. The talk ended with a reminder that the brain needs social skills, emotional skills and critical thinking skills to develop normally during the growing years.

Kate Dunn and Carol Francis-Smith presented next on The Disinhibition Effect Revisited 2017 based on John Suler’s 2004 paper. The reasons for the disinhibition were covered a number of areas such as Dissociative Anonymity, Invisibility, Asynchronicity, Solipsistic Introjection, Dissociative Imagination and Minimisation of Authority each of which were explained. As a result of these various areas it has changed the feelings and boundaries that had existed prior to the use of the Internet. The areas of eye contact were also focused on as our presence online is different from if two or more people were talking when standing or sitting together. There has also been a noticeable proximity to how close people are to their phones or devices over the years, this was also seen in the conference room where most people have their phones in reaching distance.

The next speaker came to us via video and her name was Sarah Worley-James who is the present chair of ACTO. She spoke about updates and changes that have been taking place in the organisation. Ethics were also covered and in place; there was also a move for reviewing training of online counselling as there are numerous terms and views used in variety of organisations. She also welcome new people to the organisation and thanked those who had been of service to ACTO in the past.

The final speaker of the day was Olivia Djouadi who presented on What’s an Unseen Disability and Possible Ethical Concerns. She gave a brief introduction on conditions that are invisible to see from the outside and also noted that even if a wheelchair user is only seen via video only the headshot may be seen so one can be unaware until they are told. She covered numerous conditions and also statistics from the World Health Organisation. After noting ethical concerns that may arise she then moved on to focus on both type I and type II diabetes. This was concluded with a video of a diabetic singer called Howza who sang ‘I want to live’ while also pointing out key facts about diabetes and its effect on the population.

Stephanie Palin, the OCTIA Chair, close the session and spoke a little about next year’s conference. She thanked those who presented, those that attended in person and those who watch the conference online.



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