Last month I moved house, and one of the things I was most worried about when relocating was moving away from my counsellor who I have been seeing for well over a year now. When I told her the news that I would be moving away, she (luckily) suggested counselling by Skype.
OK, technically she recommended counselling by Zoom – but Zoom is basically the same as Skype anyway.
This excited me because it meant she could remain my counsellor, but I was also a bit nervous about the idea of receiving talking therapy through my laptop as opposed to face to face. I worried that it wouldn’t be the same and that there may be a level of detachment from not sitting in the same room.
Ahead of my first online counselling session, I felt nervous. I logged in to Zoom and waited with bated breath. Was I going to struggle to open up? Would Liam hear our conversation through the door? What if the Internet went down?!
Although all of the above are valid, on reflection I now feel a bit silly for worrying at all. Like anything, counselling by Skype, Zoom or whatever you choose to do for online counselling, does have its pros and cons.
The obvious pro is that you don’t have to leave your house. A big win versus how I received therapy before because I was having to drive for 20+ minutes to the session. Not a huge deal, but there were definitely times I didn’t feel like doing it.
Another pro for receiving counselling via online video is that it can be the best option for those with social anxiety. Online counselling is made accessible to those who struggle face to face. Some online therapy options can stick exclusively to phone calls or even text/emails. Personally, I wouldn’t get on with that form of counselling but it could be ideal for others.
On the flip side, the clear con is that some people simply respond to therapy better in person. As I already have an established relationship with my counsellor, I can be myself and maintain the rapport we already have. However, if I was to switch to another counsellor or have counselling exclusively through an online service, I may have more reservations about not meeting in person.
A big part of establishing a counsellor-client relationship is learning how to read each other. For instance, when I’m nervous or uncomfortable I tend to cross my arms and occasionally lightly scratch one of them. It’s some sort of calming mechanism I think – I’ve never really figured it out. But that might not be as clear on video as in person, and so the counsellor might not pick up on it and delve into it.
Maybe that’s not a big deal, but if you have your own “quirk” for when you are feeling uneasy or anxious, that sort of thing is really helpful to a counsellor to be able to read your body language and adjust the conversation accordingly.
I think online counselling is worth a try if you’ve never tried counselling before, but I’d add that doing face to face counselling is a better jumping off point. I am very lucky that my counsellor does both and so we were able to transition to online when I moved away (with the option to meet face to face if I’m local), but I think I would struggle working with a counsellor exclusively online without that initial year and a bit of relationship building.