What is ‘Online Counselling’?
The fact that you are reading this information from the Atlas Counselling website suggest that you are already ‘online’ – that is, you know something about the Internet. To state the obvious, ‘Online Counselling’ is providing counselling services over the internet using an internet enabled computer or device. This is sometimes referred to as e-Counselling. Depending on what kind of online counselling you choose, there may be additional requirements. There are two (2) ways through which Atlas Counselling performs ‘Online Counselling’. You can choose either live-chat counselling, or video counselling, or indeed a combination that might better suit you and your situation.
Live-chat counselling is done using Zoom. Zoom is a free download. Live-chat counselling is done through the real-time exchange of text messages (chat) over the Zoom platform. It runs in a similar fashion to a voice conversation in-so-far as the client and counsellor respond in turn to each other’s text messages.
Video counselling is also performed using Zoom, and requires the additional use of a web camera (web-cam), a microphone and speakers or headphones, or a headset comprising of the combination of a microphone and headphones. This means that the client and counsellor are able to both hear and see each other similarly to how you might hear and see each other in a physical, face-to-face counselling session, only in the comfort of your chosen space.
What are the advantages of online counselling?
A key benefit to online counselling is that it makes counselling services accessible to those that are restricted by time, proximity, or mobility. It also means that clients have the flexibility to work around other obligations such as family, work and social commitments without having to also factor in additional travelling time. Further to this, online counselling may prove to be more cost effective as there may be no need to arrange childcare or take time off work in order to make it to an appointment, as well as saving on travelling expenses.
Another benefit that may apply to some clients is that online counselling affords someone who has not experienced a counselling relationship before, the opportunity to slowly introduce themselves to counselling in a way that might be easier and less intimidating than presenting to a counselling room. At Atlas Counselling, we acknowledge that some people may find simply making the appointment both confronting and challenging. This can sometimes stop a person from seeking the support they want or need. Putting 100% of the control over the process in the client’s hands, right from the first stage of making the appointment, may help in easing some of a person’s concerns.
You may be seeking support but are reluctant to reach out within your own community. Perhaps you don’t want to bump into your counsellor at a social gathering or the supermarket. Perhaps you live in a small town or community where most people know each other and you don’t feel comfortable talking freely about things that are concerns for you, because you know who knows whom. While you can rest assured that your confidentiality will not be compromised by Atlas Counselling (except under the conditions outlined under ‘Limits of Confidentiality’), by choosing Atlas Counselling online, you can access Atlas Counselling from anywhere in Australia, or indeed, the world, which may give you some peace of mind.
What are the disadvantages of online counselling?
Potential Disadvantages of Text-Based Online Counselling.
Putting thoughts and feelings into words can be challenging for some people at the best of times, and it is no different where online counselling is concerned. Sometimes, the concerns that bring people to counselling may be too complex to be able to be properly communicated through text-based counselling.
Also, some people may have difficulty reading and/or writing. This would make text-based counselling virtually impossible.
In cases like those mentioned above, video counselling or face-to-face counselling may prove to be more beneficial since this is done using verbal words rather than written words.
There are additional, inherent challenges with text-based communications, even for those who are comfortable communicating in the written word, such as being able to accurately express meaning through emphasis, tone, and inflection, as well as other non-verbal signals that would ordinarily be present in a face-to-face exchange, like; body language, facial expressions and eye contact. While some of these, and other, methods of communication feedback may be present to one degree or another in video counselling, they are altogether absent in text-based online counselling. This means that there may be a greater chance of misunderstandings or miscommunication, so it is important to tell the counsellor if you feel increasingly uncomfortable or concerned that you are not being ‘heard’ and/or understood.
Other factors that may impact on text-based online counselling may be; the level of typing skills (for instance speed and accuracy), the appropriate (or inappropriate) use of ‘net-speak’, for example, ‘LOL’ (for ‘laugh out loud’), and the use of emoticons like smiley faces. The use/incorrect use of these kinds of communication may contribute to miscommunications and/or misunderstandings as much as they are able to assist in effective communication.
In cases where text-based communications do not seem to be working out, it may be suggested that you consider video counselling, and where possible, face-to-face counselling. For more information about face-to-face counselling, see the About Face-to-Face Counselling Page.
Potential Disadvantages of Video Counselling.
As mentioned above in text-based online counselling, similarly the disadvantages of video counselling relates to the communication of non-verbal cues. Most notably is that in order to be seen as making eye contact during a video chat, one must be looking at the actual camera. By looking at the camera when speaking, you are unable to look at the person to whom you are speaking – either the counsellor to the client or the client to the counsellor. As a result, non-verbal cues may be missed and the feedback loop may be interrupted. Furthermore, without eye contact, people can sometimes feel like they are not being given the undivided attention they can come to expect from a counselling session. The natural progression from video counselling sessions would be, where possible and appropriate, to try face-to-face sessions. Of course, these potential disadvantages may not present themselves to any significant extent, if at all, though it is important that they are considered if you are thinking about engaging in video counselling sessions.
On balance, it is worth considering that, with regard to online counselling, sometimes it is case of better something than nothing. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to contact Atlas Counselling to discuss which option may be most suitable for your needs.
When is online counselling not appropriate?
Your safety is the single most important consideration at Atlas Counselling. As a result, online counselling is not a suitable option for you if your personal safety is likely to be compromised. Some examples of this might include if you are in a domestic violence situation, or if you are suicidal. If you feel like your personal safety, or the safety of someone else is at risk, you are advised to phone the most appropriate of the Emergency/Crisis numbers listed at the bottom of each page. These numbers can also be found on the ‘Emergency/Crisis Contacts’ page.
Additionally, if you are in a crisis situation and require assistance, online counselling is not an appropriate solution. In these situations, you are advised to phone the most appropriate of the Emergency/Crisis numbers listed at the bottom of each page. These numbers can also be found on the ‘Emergency/Crisis Contacts ’ page.
Furthermore, if you suffer from a diagnosed mental illness it is recommended that you read the information on the page ‘What is the Difference Between Psychology, Psychiatry and Counselling ‘. It is important that you understand the difference between counselling services, psychology services, and psychiatric services. Atlas Counselling provides counselling services. Therefore, our services may not be appropriate for your individual circumstances. Atlas Counselling is able to refer you to other services that may be more appropriate to your needs, however, if you are in a crisis situation or if your safety or the safety of someone else is at risk, you are advised to phone the most appropriate of the Emergency/Crisis numbers listed at the bottom of each page. These numbers can also be found on the ‘Emergency/Crisis Contacts’ page.
Similarly, if you are suffering with a physical condition that requires specific and specialised medical attention and/or treatment, online counselling is not an appropriate solution. You are advised to contact your medical practitioner/specialist. In the case of an emergency, dial 000 and request the appropriate emergency service(s).
Finally, if you are unable to communicate via text (live-chat via Zoom) or by voice (video-chat via Zoom), online counselling with Atlas Counselling is not an appropriate counselling solution for you. Atlas Counselling may be able to assist with face-to-face appointment. Alternatively, Atlas Counselling may be able to refer you to other services that may be more appropriate to your needs, however, if you are in a crisis situation or if your safety or the safety of someone else is at risk, you are advised to phone the most appropriate of the Emergency/Crisis numbers listed at the bottom of each page. These numbers can also be found on the ‘Emergency/Crisis Contacts’ page.
Further Information About Online Counselling
You may want to learn more about the effectiveness of online counselling. You can do an internet search using keywords like: online counselling, e-counselling, e-therapy, or internet counselling. You might also include keywords such as ethics, or issues.
For references and information on some of the publications that have been used in the development of some of the information contained in this site, refer to the page ‘Publications, Resources and Information About Online Counselling’.
Emergency Contact List
Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Domestic Violence Crisis Line: 1800 65 64 63
Australian Emergency Services: 000
(Police, Fire, Ambulance)
For other options, please visit https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-helplines