Changing to online or phone counselling

What to do ... if you would prefer to have or resume face to face counselling

Many of our members are working remotely while government guidelines on social distancing and staying at home remain in place. The face to face aspect of therapy can put therapists and their clients at particular risk, so many have moved to working online or by phone.

Your therapist will make decisions on how to offer therapy on an individual, 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. They will also need to carry out a risk assessment – in line with government guidelines – to ensure the counselling premises are COVID-secure.

... if you have concerns about changing to online or phone 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 phone counselling sessions

Your therapist should discuss with you the things you need think about when changing to online or phone 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 remote 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 phone counselling

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

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

In emergency circumstances like this, therapists will 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 or phone 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 phone 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.

Get help with counselling concerns

You can also speak to our Get help with counselling concerns service if you feel uncomfortable discussing your concerns directly with your counsellor. Our guidance provides information on some common concerns or you can contact us by email on or call 01455 883300, option 2, 07811 762114 or 07811 762256

Useful links

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