Why Online Counselling?

Why should I choose online counselling over ‘face-to-face’ therapy?

Isn’t online counselling just like in-person counselling but with a webcam?

Here Rob answers questions about online counselling and speaks of its benefits

Online therapy frees you from the need to attend a consulting room which may be some distance from where you live.  Online counselling can be conducted in the comfort of your own home, and means that you can schedule a session to fit in with your other commitments such as work, childcare or other roles that may form part of your daily routine.


If you have a particular need, and are seeking a specialist experienced in assisting people with a specific difficulty, it doesn’t matter where you are located in relation to the practitioner.  It is also useful when you are wanting to access a native English-speaking counsellor for therapy yet are living abroad, as geographical location is no bar to accessing online counselling.  Perhaps you are a wheelchair user, or have a mobility difficulty which makes getting about a challenge?  Online counselling can be a great leveller in that sense, as physical access is not as much of an issue.


Online therapy is more private, and means that you can access support discreetly without the need to ‘broadcast’ the fact that you are attending counselling if you’d rather not.  There are no waiting rooms to sit in, no parking problems to contend with and – with an online booking system – you can schedule your next appointment when it’s convenient, quickly and easily from your computer or smartphone.

Research-informed practice


Online therapy is not just ‘face-to-face counselling but with a webcam’.  There are differences in how people interact online compared with how they react in situations they may be engaged in ‘offline’.  One of the most important factors is known in the field as the ‘online disinhibition effect’.  You may have witnessed for yourself how some people communicate over the Internet in a way that they may not do in a face-to-face setting.


Research carried out by Dr. John Suler in 2004 suggests that we all behave differently when interacting online, and there is plenty of evidence showing that people are bolder and less restrained when communicating over the Internet.  This disinhibition is often blamed for incidents where people treat each other poorly, perhaps heavily criticising or even attacking another person via social media, for instance.  The disinhibition effect can however have a positive angle, and this is where online therapy comes in.



Working with the ‘Online Disinhibition Effect’


Often people engage more openly, and share more readily, when in an online relationship compared with a traditional, face-to-face one.  This allows for the therapeutic relationship between client and counsellor to become established more quickly, and for the client to feel comfortable in sharing over the Web more readily than they would offline.  It is vital therefore, that an online therapist understands and knows how to work with online disinhibition; this is a key reason why online-specific training is a must for counsellors working at distance.


Handled correctly, the phenomenon of online disinhibition can work for the client; handled incorrectly, the effect can work against the client and their progress in therapy.  Rob is not only fully online trained, but worked for several years as a tutor at a major online counselling training provider, teaching other counsellors how best to use their therapeutic skills safely, ethically and effectively over the Internet.

Isn’t online counselling just for younger people?

Do I need a fast broadband Internet connection?

Is online therapy suitable for everyone?  Will it be suitable for me?

Digital immigrants and digital natives


As the world becomes ever more connected, the benefits of engaging online are obvious.  People are able to connect with friends and family across the globe, staying in touch with loved ones no matter where they are in the world.  Bills can be paid, services delivered and entertainment accessed, all with the push of a button or the swipe of a finger.  Younger people are sometimes referred to as ‘digital natives’, growing up as they have done with the technology required to maintain a life online.  Older people, who remember a ‘pre-smart’ time, are put into the ‘digital immigrants’ category as they will have made the transition at some stage from an exclusively offline life to one which is connected to services and others via the Web.


Many Millennials and members of ‘Gen Z’ are comfortable nowadays engaging with services via instant messaging (text) chat, and this can be a really effective way of engaging therapeutically without the need to use a webcam connection.  Here, the ability to save a copy of what has been discussed can be of great use, as the transcript of an online counselling session can be revisited after the session has ended. Ashwood Therapy provides counselling for adult clients aged 18 years and older.


Online counselling is accessible to all.  A laptop, desktop or tablet computer, or smartphone, is all that is needed.  Connecting with Ashwood Therapy is straight-forward and a full ‘how to connect’ guide is provided to ensure that you arrive at your session ready to go and free of tech-stress.  The free VSee Messenger software is used to provide the video call / text chat connection.  This is a secure app used for telemedicine around the world, and has the advantage of being effective even over a slower (‘3G’) Internet connection.  When it comes to email counselling, Ashwood Therapy can also provide advice on how best to transmit your therapeutic messages so that the contents are encrypted and secure.



Assessing suitability for online counselling


In some instances, online working is unsuitable.  If you are at risk of self-harm, or are in crisis, a face-to-face service may be more appropriate as this would allow you to access more immediately the physical support that may be necessary should your wellbeing deteriorate.  Before starting online counselling with Ashwood Therapy, Rob conducts a thorough and confidential assessment to gauge your suitability for working therapeutically online.  If he feels that you may be better-served by an offline service, he can advise on where (within the U.K.) you may be able to find such support.

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