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An Introduction to Online Counselling

An overview of online counselling in comparison to traditional counselling.

What is online counselling?

  • Online counselling is where a client and therapist work together through the medium of online communication rather than in face to face sessions.
  • Online counsellors may offer a variety of mediums through which to work. These include instant message sessions, telephone counselling sessions, video call sessions.
  • It differs from traditional counselling in that the therapist and client are never in the same room during their work together.

It is similar to traditional counselling in that:

  • It takes place within a boundaried setting, in pre-booked hourly sessions.
  • It is bound by the same standards of confidentiality as face to face counselling.
  • It is dependent on an open and honest relationship between client and therapist.
  • It requires of the therapist that they provide a safe and non-judgmental space for the client to explore the depths of themselves.
  • It requires of the client a commitment to attend sessions and to work.

Why choose online counselling?

  • It is not restricted by geographical location, or the limits imposed by local service availability.
  • Therapists’ profiles can be viewed before making the appointment so that clients can gain some insight into therapist that they feel they would work best with, before committing to a session.
  • It offers more time flexibility as it is not restricted to 9-5 office hours. As sessions can take place without travel, the time requirement of attending counselling can be dramatically reduced.
  • It offers further confidentiality, because it can be accessed from home and therefore does not require attending at a local therapy centre, which for some may delay initial contact through the anxiety of being seen.
  • It offers a convenience which enhances empowerment and independence to those who may require assistance to physically attend for face to face counselling.

Online counselling with the Irish Online Counselling and Psychotherapy Service is a service offering counselling to clients through sessions of one hour. The recommended frequency of sessions would be weekly.
These sessions may take place through three online mediums:

  • Instant chat (through secure encrypted service provider)
  • Telephone (via Zoom)
  • Video call (via Zoom)

While not intended to replace face to face therapy, online counselling has many benefits:

    • Often the stress involved in making a face to face appointment may mean that a person may postpone making the appointment until such time as the stress due to life experiences outweighs that of the stress of the appointment. In this way, online counselling may offer a safer alternative to those anxious about face to face appointments and may therefore enable them to access support prior to crisis.
    • For people at home with family or at work, online counselling offers a way of accessing support without the necessity of severe disturbance to their day.
    • The client can access the support from the comfort and convenience of their own home.
    • Online counselling removes the geographical barrier which may exist to those living in remote areas who would otherwise be unable to access support.
    • Clients have access to a number of therapists and can therefore choose who they feel most comfortable with, rather than be limited to availability due to location.
    • Online counselling offers flexible appointment times.
    • Online counselling offers an independence and choice to those with a physical impairment or disability.
    • There are also disadvantages to online therapy and these should be considered too before deciding whether online counselling is right for you.
    • In both instant chat sessions and telephone sessions, you can neither see your therapist nor be seen by your therapist. While for some people this may offer an initial security, for others it may limit the level of connection they feel or the depth of relationship they feel able to establish.