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One of my family members has to use a wheelchair to get out and about, as his mobility is poor and he cannot really walk any distance unaided.  He shared with me once that it took a long time to get used to being in a wheelchair, as it seemed sometimes that that was the first thing everybody saw: the chair.  From what he described, it sounds as if his experience was of being seen as “a disabled man”, instead of “a man with a disability”.  People, he said, would sometimes talk to the person pushing him in his wheelchair, rather than with him directly.  This was hard to deal with.  His legs, he argued, no longer worked as well as they once did, but there was nothing wrong with his mental faculties or his ability to hold a conversation and engage in a relationship.  The assumptions people sometimes made were at best insensitive, and at worst, quite hurtful.

I work with clients over in the Internet in one of three ways; via encrypted video call, instant messaging (IM) text chat and secure email exchange.  One of the great advantages of online therapy over traditional, face-to-face counselling in my view is that it is a great leveller of difference.  My relative, for example could have engaged in any of the three forms of e-therapy outlined above without having to disclose that he needed to use a wheelchair if he didn’t want to.  With IM and email therapy, the counsellor usually never gets to see the client, and with video call therapy it is only the head and shoulders of the therapist and client that are in view.

If a client wants to talk about their experience of living with a disability, and how it is affecting them, they can of course choose to raise that in a session.  If they are not wanting to bring this up though, they don’t have to.  If a client is seeking support after a bereavement, for example, would there necessarily be any need for the therapist to know that they are partially sighted and so enter text into the computer using specialist software to compose their email?  I would argue that online therapy has to power to give more choice to the client to have therapy on their terms.

Many clients with a disability can access an online service just as easily as someone without a disability.  For a start, there is no need to travel to a therapy room which may prove to be a challenge for some.  As a person-centred therapist, for me the quality of the relationship the client and I create between us is what is key, and anything which enables my clients to engage in a comfortable and empowering way is surely a very good thing indeed.

Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy

Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com

E-Therapy: A Great Leveller

E-Therapy: A Great Leveller | Ashwood Therapy Blog