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Counselling and therapy are growing industries these days, reflecting the times we live in. I received face-to-face counselling a few years ago when I went through a difficult period in my life. However, there was a waiting list for this service and I had to travel several miles to see the counsellor. But in these times of instant communication there is another way counselling can be deployed – through what is commonly described as ‘telehealth’ i.e. health-related services and information about such services via electronic technology.
Health care providers usually conduct a needs-assessment for such services and, as always, resources and finance some into the equation. However, this where telehealth can come into its own as providing services via video-link services such as Skype or by email or message service can be done without the need for travelling thereby freeing up time for consultation. Telehealth services include services such as on-line counselling.
What is on-line counselling? Well, it’s much the same as the face-to-face method, the main difference is you can access your counsellor or therapist through your computer or even mobile phone through on-line messaging, video calling services like Skype or even email. This can be beneficial for those who have mobility problems or perhaps live in rural areas (although some rural areas might not have a reliable broadband service which is something to bear in mind) On-line counselling may also be an important first step for anyone is uncertain or even wary about receiving face-to-face counselling.
If you’ve read this far perhaps you’re wondering how you can go about getting on-line counselling. Your GP may recommend some programmes and/or websites. Many of these websites have comprehensive guidance notes which you can read first. However, if you don’t want to approach your GP you can search on the internet for such services although, like any other service, it’s worth doing a wee bit of research first. If you’re still unsure you can check with a registered body; in the United Kingdom the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has a list of registered members.
Many offer a self-referral service through on-line chat, Skype, webcam or email. It goes without saying that should you opt for Skype or webcam you should ensure your broadband service is reliable; getting ‘cut off’ during a session will prove at best frustrating and at worst possibly putting yourself at risk.
Now a question you may well be asking is – does on-line counselling actually work? The answer is – there is no definitive answer! We are all different, we all react differently to things in our own individual manner. The same question can be asked if you attend face-to-face counselling. You won’t know if it works until you try it. What is worth considering is that for many people the very thought of going to an unfamiliar environment and talking to a complete stranger can be daunting. With on-line counselling you can do this in the comfort of your own home. If you opt for Skype or webcam you will still have the scenario where you are discussing your issues face-to-face with a stranger. Some people find they can open up more to someone they don’t know. They don’t feel under pressure to say things they feel a familiar face might expect them to say. However, if this still feels uncomfortable you can use an email or chat facility.
Remember, counselling – whether it be in person, face-to-face or anonymously through chat or email – doesn’t work for everyone. But it does for so many - and that is something worth considering.