I’ve been working therapeutically online, alongside face to face counselling, for around six years now providing therapeutic interventions via VOIP, synchronous and asynchronous text and over the phone. I’ve worked with groups, one to one and supported an entire global online therapeutic community. Believe me when I say the switch incurred a steep learning curve in the early days and I’m still learning now!
So, when I hear other practitioners saying that they’re qualified to work online because they’re qualified counsellors, therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists I break out in a cold sweat and develop a bit of a twitch! Is it true that the BACP don’t tell you, you HAVE to undertake additional training to work on line? Well…yes it is, but what they actually say is:
“Practitioners who offer online services need to ensure that they are suitably trained and qualified for their work and BACP recommends (Anthony, K. And Jamieson, A., 2005) that online work should be considered as a specialist area and practised only by those with extensive post-qualification experience of face-to face work. In addition, appropriate further training or professional development is strongly recommended before deciding whether to use the Internet for provision of therapy.” (BACP, October 2007)
And in my opinion we need to take their recommendation very seriously.
To work online, particularly with text, you need to find beauty and power in the words you use to sculpt your responses. You need to be able to find the hidden meaning (where one exists) in a pause or typo and you need to enjoy creating vivid pictures, and indeed worlds, with your text.
Now….it will be of no real surprise to you that I love words :). I’ll reread a well crafted phrase and the insights it allowed a client to reach with a sense of deep satisfaction and reflect on things I could have said differently to promote further development for the client. There is a clarity provided by a complete transcript of a session that can’t be obtained through the subjective reflection on a face to face session that I relish.
To work online takes passion, and faith that this type of therapy works…it also takes preparation and training because you’ll feel things you didn’t know where possible, you’ll be frustrated at times and you’ll be surprised and even shocked if you haven’t done your research!
Imagine for a moment that you’re in your counselling room sitting opposite an acutely distressed client…they hold their head in their hands and clutch a tissue as tears stream uncontrollably down their cheeks. Struggling to breath, and on the verge of the disclosure you’ve been working towards for several months, they promptly disappear…into thin air…..POOF! How would you feel and what would your concerns be? What would you have in place to make sure that client was safe? Of course this doesn’t happen outside of the realms of sci-fi but when you’re working online a disconnection (deliberate or otherwise) will feel very much as I’ve described.
The considerations involved in working online are numerous they include the technology you would need to look into, a difference in the way we practice, the law, insurance issues and many other areas. In all honesty it’s a minefield…but it’s worth it.
If you’d like to contact me to talk about the subject please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you’d like to learn more about some of the training that’s out there please go to http://onlinetherapyinstitute.com/ .
Thanks for reading 🙂
Jane Fahy (RMBACP)
Clinical Services Manager, Gambling Therapy
Tutor, Online Therapy Institute