What will online counselling be like? A guide for clients transitioning to online sessions.

We could be anywhere; we now have access to resources that we never imagined we would have or need right at out fingertips and at any time. Anything from entertainment, ordering our groceries, finding, and connecting with people and utilising professional services. This is probably the one thing that I learnt during last year’s covid-19 lock downs in Melbourne; there are many ways to get what you need, how and when you need it. So, I have applied this thinking to my counselling practice, first out of necessity during the lockdowns, now as an ongoing service because I have seen the positive results that my clients have had.

Image by Sarah Richter (Pixabay wellness-3330688_1920).


How will we continue to have that relationship, that counselling connection?

Online counselling will feel different and yes, the relationship with the counsellor will be different. We won't be in the same room; we won't be at arm’s reach to pass you a tissue or a session handout. However, we will still be there together connecting. You as normal providing the session content, me as normal listening, paying attention and tuning in to your every word, and creating that holding environment in the same way we did before.

You may even experience a greater level of relaxed engagement with the online process since you are in your own home or that private, calm comfortable space you have set up for our time together, compared to the hustle and bustle of getting to the practice for an appointment. This is a real bonus for how easily we warm up to the session and the work you do during our time together progresses.


What is preventing me from participating in counselling online?

Covid-19 has changed and continues to influence all our lives, some of the changes experienced by people have been terrible with life seeming more isolated and more difficult to manage. But other aspects of the changes we have all gone through have thrown up unexpected opportunities, like how we attend to our wellness and wellbeing. Gone are any misgivings about attending the counsellor's practice and sitting in front of the receptionist making or not making small talk while you wait for your therapist are gone! Now you can attend to your psychological wellness and wellbeing privately, and pretty much anywhere that is calm and comfortable for you.


At Bright Vista Counselling we are moving our traditional face-to-face sessions online via video call (Zoom), and voice call (mobile phone). Supporting these sessions with instant messaging (Signal SMS) and PDF Documents via email. We have been practicing this way for about 12 months and the client experience has been positive.


For anyone making the transition from face-to-face to online it may feel odd or even scary. Of course each person may feel different things at different times but it is worth noticing what comes up for you, jot down what is on your mind and raise it with me via email (brightvistaservices@gmail.com), text or just call me and leave a message 0431 212 099. I will then call you back either between clients or within 24 hours, and I'll spend 15 minutes with you to address any questions or concerns you might have.


Some of the issues that might come up might be something like; Will the sessions feel the same as before? What about the rapport we have built up? Will we connect in the same way? What if I have trouble with the technology? How do I get help with this? I hope this article will go some way to alleviating these concerns.


Making a start with online counselling.

First things first, if for any reason you don't feel safe at home and attending the counselling practice represents a safe and calm environment for you, I’m really sorry that this is changing for you. However, I hope we can continue to work creatively together to help you create a feeling of calm and sanctuary for yourself wherever you are.


Being prepared.

Like all change processes the worry and anxiety of change can be alleviated with a little forward planning. As well as noticing your feelings about the transition to online counselling and writing down what is going on for you, there are a number of things you can do before your session, during the session and after the session to help pave the way for an engaging and useful experience.


Before we meet, you will have your summary of feelings you noticed coming up for you prior to the session. You could also write down a list of your top three concerns about online counselling. We will both be concerned with privacy of confidentiality. It is up to you to ensure you have found a space that is private, calm and comfortable where you won’t be disturbed or distracted by other people, kids or pets.


Before the session begins is a good time to set up your space and attend to your needs so you can engage in the session without having to worry about small tasks. So, get comfortable, fill up your drink bottle, have a pencil and pad available for any notes you may want to take or for jotting down home practice exercises. As the session time nears, maybe 5 minutes before the start time stop the tasks that you are doing and turn your attention to yourself, maybe notice your breathing and how your body is feeling, anything that helps you turn your attention from your busy day and helps you prepare to take time for you during the session ahead.


Then when the session starts, we can take some time to talk about your concerns and find a level of comfort to allow the session to begin from there.


During the session it is important to take time to notice how you are going, noticing your breathing, noticing your emotions, and notice any sensations in your body. Then pay attention to the pace of things, slowing down, pausing and using the moments of silence. These moments will help you find your level of comfort with the process. If at any time you experience any problems, concerns or distractions just mention what it is and we will try and solve it together.

If the session freezes or is disconnected for whatever reason, remember you are responsible for the content and I am responsible for the tech and delivery. So, if this happens all you have to do is turn your attention to your breath and be mindful while I scurry around and re-establish the session.


I will do my best to make sure things go well during the session and I will discuss this with you at the commencement of each session so you will know what will happen if the technology fails, or if you disconnect early (for whatever reason). Once we reconnect, I will ensure we do a couple of exercises to help us reconnect and find the thread of what we were doing before the disruption. I will also add of a few minutes to the end of the session to ensure there is no feeling of being "short changed" by the technology.


Taking a few more minutes for you.

As the session comes to an end these moments can often feel somewhat rushed and quite final as we click the close button. It can be tempting at this point to immediately launch back into your day checking emails, making list and getting busy with tasks. Given that online counselling doesn't involve any travel time maybe you could use a few of these minutes to just sit quietly looking out your window or going outside and noticing the sky, the trees, the garden or whatever space you have around you. As with the start of the session taking five to ten minutes to focus on yourself will be a good strategy for after the session has ended too. Try to let the counselling session sink in by noticing how you are, turning your attention to your breath, your emotions and any sensations you notice in your body. Then carry on with whatever is next in your day.


Finding a level of comfort with the new normal.

Participating in counselling online will feel different than coming into the practice. That's OK. It's OK to be worried about change and it is OK to speak to your counsellor about this too. From my experience over the last year, after a few sessions these early concerns will fade, and you'll notice how "normal" and effective it is. You never know you might never want to go back meeting at the practice again!


I see many clients online who I have never met in person and I still feel deeply connected to each one I work with. You will notice some difference about working together on-line, how we start together, how the energy of the session flows and builds will all feel a bit different. However, there are advantages, the general busyness we carry around with us between tasks, the noise of our daily lives, the distractions will be turned down as our sole focus is what is happening on the screen between us.