Effective Online Counselling

Online Counselling Safety

When counselling online, it is essential to meet the privacy and quality standards that clients expect—using a quality platform that provides good digital communication standards such as a quality connection and protection from data breaches.

Counsellors also need to protect clients from electronic data breaches by using wired or secured Wi-Fi connections, ensuring a firewall and virus protection is in place. Passwords need to be complex enough to prevent attacks and vulnerabilities.

Physical protection to ensure clients are not seen or overheard. Working ethically with a client must be driven by a client’s need for online
counselling. Clients working online may not feel safe, especially in a lockdown situation where they are stuck at home, and people may overhear them.

Research into Online Counselling

A paper by McKenny, Galloghly, Porter, & Burbach (2021) found that 65% of therapists found using video technology to conduct sessions a positive experience. However, 66% of those therapists also felt that the move online negatively impacted their techniques and the therapeutic relationship.
Additional training, better online features, and greater creativity can
improve online therapy. Counsellors NZ helps counsellors specialise in online counselling.

Avatar-based therapy for clients with anxiety could be beneficial. Teooh is a platform that lets people choose an avatar and engage in that way.

Dr Albert Rizzo from the University of California’s Institute of Creative Technology helps people therapeutically use Virtual Reality (VR). According to Dr Rizzo, Virtual Reality can help people in several ways, including Exposure Therapy for PTSD, Pain Management, and ADHD. Other professionals are also discovering how VR Therapy can help clients with Generalized Anxiety Disorders.

Counsellors NZ’s vision is to make counselling more assessable and effective for clients. Incorporating additional technology like these could be our path forward towards a healthier future.

Effectiveness of Online Counselling

Counsellors NZ provides clients with self-reporting scales. These are questionnaires that clients answer about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. The advantages of using these are that they can be performed relatively quickly, they can be done outside of the session time, and they are free to do. They can help clients find out where they are at, and when retaken, they can reinforce a client’s progress.

Peered reviewed data is essential when using assessment tools such as this so that the client can gain a realistic perspective on themselves. Where possible, Counsellors NZ uses New Zealand based research, so assessment results are as culturally accurate as possible. One example is the Clinical Anger Scale, initially published in the New Zealand Journal of Psychology by Reynolds, Walkey & Green. It is a 30-question scale in which clients or potential clients can measure their amount of agreement or disagreement.

Self-reported assessments are designed to avoid false results such as;

Infallibility Error is when therapists avoid the possibility of their error by thinking that the client is not ready to change or some other mitigating factor. Therapists can help prevent this error by actively seeking feedback about the effectiveness of their work.

The self-reported assessments help prevent the Acquiesce Bias (where participants respond to every question similarly) by asking the same question in reverse. In the Clinical Anger Scale, we ask participants to scale how much they agree or disagree with the following reversed questions.

  1. I get mad easily
  2. I hardly ever get angry.

To help avoid the Social Desirability Bias (where participants respond in a way that makes them look good), self-reported assessments are filled in anonymously; no personal details were taken from participants doing these assessments. The wording of the questions is stated in a neutral tone.

An online questionnaire removes the interviewer effect problem, where the interviewer’s characteristics affect participant responses.

The self-reported assessments on Counsellors NZ use Likert scales (participants choose how much they agree or disagree with a statement) to create comparable standardised results. They may help participants gain awareness of maladaptive behaviours (such as anger).       

Because results are anonymous, counsellors do not know if a client has done a self-reported assessment. So, clients can bring their results into the session to talk it over if they so desire.

Doing self-reported assessments in conjunction with online counselling helps clients track their progress and ensures clients are getting what they need from their sessions.

Disinhibition Effect

When working online, we need to be aware of the disinhibition effect. It is an effect where people feel safer saying things online than they would in real life, and this could have some benefits in therapy, helping clients feel safer and more open. Counsellors must also keep this in mind and be
well-grounded, as this effect can influence both parties.

Clients have been reported to find it much easier to leave online counselling sessions; it only takes a mouse click to go. This can increase their autonomy as they take more control over when the session ends.

Online Counselling with Zoom

As far as video-based platforms go, most professionals hold Zoom in high regard. One benefit of this platform is that it does not require any of the client’s details to set up a room. The client can just be sent a link. The room can be locked after the client enters, ensuring no one else can enter the room and the session remains private.

Video platforms offer additional anonymity and counsellor availability because clients can elect to work with a counsellor anywhere in the world. Advantageous in smaller towns / rural areas where face-to-face facilities might not be available.

Tips for having a Great Session

There can be numerous technical problems and the internet connection itself, which can interrupt sessions and stop a good flow from happening. Buying good equipment, such as a camera and headset, and going with a reputable internet provider will help prevent these problems.

If clients can find themselves in a comfortable space, in their own home, where they have more control, at a more convenient time, and at a lower cost than traditional counselling, then online counselling is the future. I hope you will join us by booking your first session for free with one of our online counsellors. Click here to get started.

Once you book your first session, a link to your session will be provided. These links will also be emailed to you from Counsellors NZ.

We provide two different links: the Zoom download and browser versions. Check your email from Counsellors NZ for these links. Test both links to ensure you can get both camera and sound to work.

Supporting Men For Better Mental Health

Men need support as much as women do, but statistics from the CDC show that only around 13% of men go to counselling each year, about half the number of women. Women, in general, see healthcare providers more often, getting contraception and having healthcare checkups. Men tend to go when there is a problem.  We need to get better at supporting men.

Life can sometimes be challenging, but men tend to reach out much later than women. Early intervention is key to a quick recovery in any healthcare. When things get complicated, anxiety or depression can set in. It can happen to anyone at some stage in their lives. Anxiety and depression, when left unaddressed, can lead to further breakdown of communication, impacting your life and the lives of your loved ones.

Men approach conflicts and relationship issues differently than women. They see a problem and seek to fix it to gain control of the situation before it gets out of hand. They may feel frustrated and angry when things are outside of their control. At a glance, they will seem more closed off or dismissive when asked if anything is wrong. They may also reduce their interactions with others. 

Men often suppress their feelings as much as possible if the issues get too complicated. Suppression of emotions often leads to physical aches and pains, which can result in irritability and a negative temperament. 

As depression sets in, they begin to cycle through feelings of anger, hurt and despair. They can also become highly lonely, thinking no one loves or cares for them as emotional isolation sinks in. To feel alive and regain identity, they may engage in physical activities that offer them instant rewards, such as working more hours as a distraction.

How do we get better at supporting men?

Like women, men need a safe place for them to be able to open up. It is harder for men to be accepted for feeling vulnerable. Men have been taught to manage their life and be in control to achieve desirable lifestyles. They also focus on finding quick solutions to keep their loved ones happy.

One most significant barrier is expecting them to find the courage and overcome it. Compassion and empathy go a long way. That said, not everyone is equipped with compassion and empathy as part of their parting gift from being in a relationship. Relationship issues usually arise when couples are not able to communicate effectively. When things spiral out of control and despair sets in, their only focus is on how much they have failed themselves in managing their lives. Being emotionally invested in the conflict can be a significant barrier to developing and maintaining compassion and empathy. 

Counselling is an excellent way to open up about their issues or concerns. It gives them a supportive environment to open up about how they feel. 

Counselling through Counsellors NZ offers a flexible and convenient way to book your counselling sessions. Making counselling more accessible to men that live remotely and those that work long hours.  Some counsellors will even offer a free 15-20 minute first session, click here to learn more about that.

If you are supporting a man through his life issues, remember that you too may need some counselling to help yourself recharge. It would help if you acknowledged that you are also hurt from the conflicts, from being frequently dismissed and ignored, which can impact intimacy and closeness to him. 

How does counselling help?

Counselling and online counselling can help us to analyse our mental well-being. Cognitive behaviour therapy, Solution focus and Motivational therapy are commonly used to start addressing presenting concerns.

Online counselling is done via Zoom, providing the best security and connection for your session. You can connect to your Zoom counselling session via your PC, laptop or mobile phone. All sessions start with the camera off, and you are welcome to leave it that way if it helps you feel more comfortable.

A counsellor provides a neutral setting for the client to tell their story. How the journey unravels depends on the collaboration between the counsellor and the client. Ultimately, the client needs to feel safe and supported for the therapy to be effective.

Counselling is a supportive approach that helps clients better understand themselves. It allows you to think things through and make decisions rather than just react to life the way you always have.

How long will it take?

Collaboration is critical in forming the courage and confidence to embark on the journey to look into ourselves. During the trip, you may uncover some past events that shaped who you are today. Relationship issues may be the tip of the iceberg.

Men that had experienced trauma at some stage in their life may feel more closed off and often less willing to partake in counselling. They will avoid situations or places that will trigger emotions from their trauma. They will likely experience physical discomfort as they become distressed. These are the common signs of someone that shares PTSD- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; left untreated, it can get in the way of daily living for themselves and loved ones.

Treatments may involve:

  • Teach them specific skills to address the symptoms. Having new tools will help cope when a particular event triggers opposing emotions.
  • Changing mindset and promoting positive self-talk.
  • Addressing other issues such as depression, anxiety and misuse of alcohol and drugs.

How long this all takes depends very much on the type of problem and how early counselling has been conducted. 

Brief intervention counselling is a type of counselling that focuses on negative behaviour such as alcohol abuse and seeks to address it. Generally, this type of counselling can be as short as 3-10 sessions.   

Psychodynamic therapy styles address depression and offer more extended-term support for clients.   

What does recovery look like?

All good things take time. Healing will happen when there is acceptance. Therapy gives you a chance to rewrite a new story. You can get to know and learn from one another in a relationship. Learning new tools can improve communication from being abrupt and defensive to one that is inviting and warm. It will involve some trial and error before you get it right. Utilise therapy sessions as your sounding board to analyse your communication with each other.

If you care for a friend or a relative through anxiety and depression, you can best stay in touch with them. Loneliness and emotional isolation can be challenging to overcome. Be the person that they can confide in without expectation. Give them space to express, explore and analyse their thoughts, crowding their mind.

Being there to listen, knowing that you do not have to provide any answers or have to make any judgments, is a great way to become better at supporting men.