Online and Phone Therapy (OPT)

Welcome to the exciting world of online and phone therapy!

Whether this is your most natural environment, or if you are working online or via phone because of circumstances beyond your control, my hope is that you’ll find it effective, flexible and easy to access.

I am trained, insured and competent to offer telephone counselling, as well as video-conferencing counselling (with or without the camera) for which I use Zoom.

There are benefits and challenges to online and telephone therapy, so here are six questions to ask yourself before starting…

1. Where will therapy take place?
This may sound obvious, but its worth thinking through where you would like to be for your sessions. I recommend finding a way of propping up your laptop or phone so you are not holding it: 50 minutes is a long time and you may feel better if you are able to move your arms about and shift positions. You’ll need to consider where in your home you can 'leave' when the session is over, such as a chair or corner you only sit in for therapy sessions. I would recommend not using your bed for this reason. 

If you have a good signal, then therapy outside your home may be an option. You might be able to sit in a park, on a bench, or be somewhere safe outside your home- or even in a parked car.
2. How can I make sure I won’t be interrupted or overheard? 
One of the main things about therapy is that its private. You will need somewhere private where you won't be interrupted or overheard. Is your technology reliable enough for an uninterrupted zoom call? Do you need to make arrangements so that others (such as co-workers or dependants) know you are not available? 

Try and ensure you can relax knowing that you don’t need to think about anything other than your therapy. For online therapy via Zoom, if the connection fails, then generally we will switch to therapy over the phone.
3. What will I talk about?
Again, this may sound obvious, but think through what you want to get out of sessions and what you want to talk over. Think about what privacy you have at different times of day, what you may need from an online session and how this may differ to a session in person. 

Therapy is for your benefit, so it’s worth considering how you will use online or telephone sessions- it doesn’t have to be the same as face to face sessions. You may also feel differently about opening up - it may feel really natural and easier than in person, or it may feel harder.
4. Do I have the right kit?
Obviously, you’ll need your device, but you might also want a notepad and pen, headphones and a clock. You may also want to get yourself a drink, some tissues and make sure you are warm and comfortable and check your technology in good time for your session. You may also want to mute all your devices and notifications that may interrupt the session. 

You will need to make sure your device is fully charged or have a charging device handy, and you may wish to use headphones with a mic attached (your mobile phone headphones are suitable) to increase your privacy. You’ll need good WiFi / internet / phone connectivity, so it’s worth testing this out with a friend before you think about doing therapy online or on the phone. 

I will be using Zoom as it is HIPAA compliant, encrypted, and free for you to use. You can join the meeting by clicking on a link- you don’t have to download anything. You can find out more about zoom by Googling it- there many articles about how safe zoom is, and this may help answer any questions you have about the technology.

(Whilst I have done everything within my power to choose a safe and secure platform, Zoom is an external software provider whose policies and procedures are beyond my control.)

If telephone therapy is offered, then I will call you and bear the cost of the call. 
5. Do I like being online / on the phone?
The chances are, that if you are comfortable online or on the phone then you will relax into therapy via these methods more easily. But even for the most tech savvy, things will feel a little different on a screen, and it may be harder to feel a sense of connection between us (although this is not the case for everyone). 

You may notice yourself more able to open up about personal issues, or you may find it harder. Therapy online and on the phone also relies on the spoken aspects of therapy more: I may need to ask more questions and ask you to describe what is going on for you if I can’t see clearly what is happening. 

If you are hard of hearing or rely on non-verbal clues or lip reading, then you may find working online more difficult. Similarly, if you are used to communicating online and feel more at home connecting over video and telephone platforms then you may find it easier than an in-person situation. 

You may also be concerned about seeing yourself on screen -in which case you may choose to minimise your camera or turn your camera off. Everyone is different, so together we can work out what you need to feel safe and supported. 
6. What will I do afterwards? 
Therapy online and via telephone does bear thinking through. Although you haven’t got the cost and bother of travelling, you also haven’t got that separation from your therapy and other areas of your life. Transitioning from ‘therapy’ back to normal life without the physical journey can be tricky to manage. 

If possible, create some space for yourself to reflect on what you have been talking and thinking about, and don’t rush back into the hustle and bustle of everyday tasks. You might plan to leave your home for exercise or shopping straight after therapy by way of 'leaving' things you have talked about within the therapy space. 

You might find that you need to plan something nice, relaxing or supportive for the time after your session, and think about who else is in your support network. I may never meet you in person, so ask yourself who you have near you that you could turn to (friends, family, local agencies and helplines) if you needed support in between sessions.

Please note that I can only offer telephone or online counselling to clients who are in the UK (not any other country).