Moving to online or telephone counselling

What to do ... if you would prefer to continue with face-to-face counselling

Given the Government's guidance to stay at home unless absolutely necessary, we’re advising that, wherever possible, our members do not continue to see clients face-to-face if other options are available.

Your therapist will make decisions on whether to continue therapy on a personal case-by-case basis. There are many factors to consider including your needs and safety, your therapist’s needs and safety, whether other options are possible, and the ethical and practical risks of any decision.

... if you have concerns about moving to online or telephone counselling

Talk to your therapist about your concerns so they can support you during this difficult time. You can decide between you the best way to continue your work together.

The relationship you have with your therapist is one of the most important aspects of counselling and you may worry about maintaining this if you’re not in the same room or can’t see them. Your therapist will be aware of your concerns and will take steps to try to ensure that you still feel comfortable and supported.

… to prepare for online or telephone counselling sessions

Your therapist should discuss with you the things you need think about when moving to online or telephone counselling. This will include:

  • arranging sessions
  • using software platforms
  • back-up plans if the technology fails
  • security and confidentiality
  • payments

They may ask you to agree to some new clauses in your contract together to cover online working.

You’ll need to make sure that you have a quiet and private space where you won’t be interrupted or overheard for the duration of the session.

Having online or telephone counselling

What to do ... if you find online or telephone counselling sessions ineffective, uncomfortable or upsetting

When counselling is normally provided face-to-face, changing to telephone or online therapy can be quite a difficult transition for both parties, particularly if your counsellor has not been trained in working in this way.

Ideally therapists would be trained, however in emergency circumstances like this they may try to do the best they can to continue to support their clients. It will be distressing for them too, if they realise the sessions are not going well.

We’d suggest you contact your therapist, perhaps by email if you feel uncomfortable talking to them about it. Try to explain your feelings about the sessions. Discussing the issues and how they might be solved might help improve future sessions.

... if something happens during an online session that upsets you

As with face-to-face counselling, if you feel uncomfortable with anything that happens in the session, you should discuss it with your therapist, ideally during the session. If the therapist has intentionally or unintentionally crossed a boundary, you should tell them about your reaction.

Online or telephone counselling can create particular issues. If you can’t see people’s reactions or body language, or if connection difficulties mean you can’t hear properly, you may not even be sure that incidents actually happened.

If you feel uncomfortable talking to your therapist about it, try sending them an email or letter before your next session. This will give them time to think about what happened so they can talk it through with you. Even if you’re not sure what happened or what they said, it may help to have that conversation in an open way.

Useful links

If you feel in need of some additional support, you may find the following organisations helpful: