Why online counselling is better than meeting your counsellor in-person and how to select.

online from home

Two years of pandemic have given us new science about the effectiveness of online counselling, live psychotherapy and telehealth, video-delivered psychotherapy and the use of video conferencing technology for individual coaching as well as couples counselling.

This is an update of my older blog due to the 2.5 years of our experience with the online delivery of courses, tutoring, education, social engagement, mental health and wellbeing. We now have scientific evidence to match our personal and professional experience of operation, normality and implicitness of video conferencing.

Efficacy and Accessibility

A brand-new meta-analysis of efficacy regarding video vs in-person treatment concludes that “…Live psychotherapy by video emerges not only as a popular and convenient choice but also one that is now upheld by meta-analytic evidence…” (JOURNAL Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. Volume28, Issue 6 Special Issue: Psychological Consequences of COVID‐19, Pages 1535-1549)

Necessity and convenience

Individualised and real-time online services for well-being, life coaching and mental health are popular. Increased disruptions in public life such as social movement and waves of outbreaks of infectious diseases impel the demand. People reduce their commutes and value the safety and convenience of home over the workplace and face-to-face socialising. Video conferencing, live chat and phone conversations have widely replaced in-person contact to address personal emotional challenges as well as mental well-being.

Efficiency and Cost

Video conferencing makes it easy and accessible to keep a healthy routine of self-care. Online counselling offers advantages in flexibility, efficiency and mobility. It demonstrates a broad range of suitability. Many people can benefit from online consultation services via video call, phone sessions, text messaging and chat.

The VDP (video delivered) improvement is most pronounced when CBT is used, and when anxiety, depression, or PTSD are targeted, and it remains strong though attenuated by publication bias. Clinically, therapy is no less efficacious when delivered via videoconferencing than in-person, with efficacy being most pronounced in CBT for affective disorders (mood disorders).

Ephrem Fernandez et al. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. Volume28, Issue 6

.

Boundaries and Safety from Home

Some of my online clients appreciate in particular the virtual nature of online therapy, because it also offers an additional sense of safety, built-in boundaries of time, distance and technology (i.e. mute microphone, camera on/off, etc) and occasionally anonymity.

Staying home and still being able to connect with me online is often a relieve, when suffering from anxiety or nervous tension. For clients with low mood or depression it is helpful to know that they can shorten their sessions if needed or take a break without needing to commute.

How to find an online counsellor, live coach and video-delivered psychotherapist

1. Using the first session wisely

The most important criteria for the success of remote therapy and coaching is the working alliance with your virtual coach and online therapist. A relationship of mutual trust and respect contributes 50% to successfully working together. I recommend to invest the first appointment in order for you to get a feel for your rapport.

Ask yourself if your therapist or coach is listening, resonating and empathising with you. Do you feel unconditional support and respect? From my personal experience in therapy I want my therapist to be kind, but not too soft or fluffy. It is key that he/she is honest about their feelings and thoughts and enquires into your interpersonal connection.

2. Background and Training

You can usually check the background and education of your counselor, coach and therapist on their website and social media such as LinkedIn. A simple google research will also provide you with some appearances in their professional capacity – you might find publications, videos and programs of their involvements.

Regarding further development, professional registers, specialty education and memberships it might be worthwhile to look into the online listings and registers of certifying institutions where you can search by name or location. In addition to these formal checks, I recommend for you to also get an understanding of your practitioner’s personal and professional journey through life. Does this person embody an open mind, a wholesome approach to life and possess values that serve you well?

3. Technology and Infrastructure

Although most social media provides channels and means to converse online, WhatsApp, FaceTime, HangOuts, Skype et al might not provide the best technical stability, privacy and confidentiality.

  • Does your therapist, coach and counsellor use a renown video conferencing software that enables audio, video and screen as well as file sharing features?
  • Which timezone is he/she based in and how does that align with your schedule?
  • And even more importantly: Does the connection work?
  • Is the quality of sound and vision high and stable? After all, if the line is bad, your session will be a waste of time and money.

4. Cost and Efficiency

Apropos money: Cost depends on duration, practitioner experience, specialisations and clientele. Much like seeking out a personal trainer, it is essential that you become clear of your ambition, budget and priorities.

Beware of someone who makes unrealistic promises or seems to want to make a sale rather than seriously offering services with integrity and decency. Online coaching is not a one-off. Therapy and counselling benefits from regular and steady commitment to depth and experience.

Most decent practitioners value timeline over quick-wins and hence are willing to reward your engagement into a process and a series of sessions over time. Expect to pay in a range of 100 to 450USD (70 to 400EUR, 130 to 660AUD, 400 to 3500HKD) with rates being typically higher for business coaching.

5. How to prepare as a client

From many years of experience as an online counsellor I have learned to check with my clients if they are ready to work with me. Here is what I am asking for in order to ensure best results. I basically want you to show up for an online session in exactly the same way you would show up face-to-face in my office – my recommended online way is per video call.

  1. Environment – be in a quiet space, with good light and sound and a steady camera
  2. Attitude – be dressed in smart casual and ready to stay focused while our meeting lasts
  3. Discipline – be on time, but prepared to wait a few minutes in the waiting room feature
  4. Privacy – be present (no cats, colleagues or other communications)

Being well prepared is great gift of respect from both sides. It always yields better results for your online therapy.

Wishing you an insightful and healing online experience, Counselling Psychologist Sebastian

Resource

Good Practice in Action 047 – Fact Sheet: Working Online in the Counselling Professions is published by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, BACP House, 15 St John’s Business Park, Lutterworth, Leicestershire LE17 4HB. (Updated March 2019)

MEN’S WATCH AND TALK – online event

men's group watch and talk

This is an online event for men to get together to watch and discuss a documentary about a men’s group and – amongst others – the question “What does it mean to be a man?”.

In the film, the members of a diverse group of men take center stage. Their personal reflections on life’s challenges is contrasted by a journey to WWI sites – shockingly topical – mirroring the present times of war in Europe.

Counselling Psychologist Sebastian hereby responds to the recent impact of the pandemic on quality of life in Hong Kong and Asia Pacific. The intention being to reflect on male topics and to connect through a shared experience – far away from the often depressing daily news.

“Every man is an island. But some men build island chains, underneath they are connected”

E V E N T

  • Monday 28 March 2022 on Zoom
  • Start 19:30 HKT time
    • Introduction & Meditation (or technical setup)
    • Watching the movie (70′)
    • Sharing session (30′)
    • Closing Meditation
  • End 21:30 HKT time
  • Cost: FREE – registration required

M O V I E durch T E C H N I K

  • Participation in the Zoom Meeting is free of charge upon registration
  • Participants need to rent or buy the movie on Vimeo
  • The purchase is not part of the registration
  • Link and further info: MAKE ME A MAN

D I S C L A I M E R

Sebastian has no affiliation with the owner/producer/promoter of the film, nor is he affiliated with the vimeo platform. Sebastian does not have any commercial upside by organising this event. I simply liked the documentary as a piece of art and deem it worthwhile sharing with likeminded men.

Register here…

2 answers from a client regarding depression

This is a short read. A client of mine kindly provided some feedback on his counselling process with me and what he thinks of medication facing symptoms of depression.

This is an update of an older blog. You can read the original blog here…

How counselling helped you with low mood and lacking pleasure?

Looking back, it’s difficult to remember how I got myself into such a mess. At the time, though, it was very real, destructive and dark. My sessions with you were like a lifeline. One of the most important factors was feeling that I had a team around me. That you shared my different battles and that I was not alone. Your wholehearted approval (and surprise) when I mentioned that I had gone sailing while in the very depths of melancholy was especially memorable! Various insights you offered – and a couple of the books you recommended – helped me to better understand my depression. Some of the techniques and words of advice you shared helped me to create a toolkit to dig my way out of the hole I was in.

Counselling in Hong Kong for adults seeking emotional balance
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Where would you draw the line to medication and psychology?

As you will recall, I chose to go onto Prozac during all of this. In retrospect, it’s hard to know what role, if any, it played in my recovery. In fact during the first ten days, it made me worse. However, there was a watershed point about 6 weeks after I started the Prozac when I began to quickly and steadily recover. At the time, it felt as if I had absorbed a sufficient level of Prozac and my brain was now being flooded with happy chemicals. However, I have no way of objectively quantifying what was the Prozac and what was my natural recovery mode kicking in. If I were ever to go into serious depression again (God forbid), I would probably go back onto anti-depressants. I would certainly immediately go into counseling. I hope these comments are helpful to others.

(anonymous)