In these times of the 2020 COVID pandemic and lockdowns we all have had to change the way we work. Whereas in years gone by, online therapy was something of a rarity with hours of recommended training as guidelines from the professional bodies dictated this has all changed. Short courses and workshops have taken over giving the therapist an overview of how to work online safely and confidentially.
Concerns in previous years of the security of the internet have had to have been looked at by the software companies and platforms that offer online video conference calling. There are many platforms which can be looked at including Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp etc. Each with their own pro’s and con’s but the therapist will find one or two that suit their needs. Privacy issues and unreliable technology have also had to be addressed by these platforms in a short period of time, adapting quickly to the current global requests for such technology.
For the therapist and in our case counsellor/ hypnotherapist, what does this mean? How do we confidently offer these services to our clients?
Understanding technology is a great help and there are many workshops that can be attended to build more awareness. Having the up-to-date software and hardware, which includes cameras and microphones is certainly a must. To have your own computer installed with anti-virus software and to ensure that you have advised your client to follow similar guidance. Concerns a client may have around confidentiality and privacy of the actual session should be looked at. To provide a secure, confidential space to have a video online session, with no interruptions from both sides is imperative. For me, personally, I always were a headset (earphones with attached microphone) thus giving my client the privacy that no-one else can hear their side of the conversation. It, for me, makes it much more personal. Ensuring that we have a clear vision of the person on the other side of the camera enabling interpretation of body language and intimate gestures is also very important to me as a therapist. To see someone’s facial expressions and dynamics all helps with the flow of the session.
I should point out now that technology itself is not always reliable. Internet can be slow, cameras may not work, sound may be indistinct but talking this through with the client as to what if something breaks up, who re-connects or re-initiates the connection. As long as everyone is aware that these hiccups can occur then sessions should be able to flow correctly.
As mentioned above online therapy does have its limitations, the lack of personality input and complete intimacy that is often built up between the therapist and the client can be missing. However, we must be able to adapt. Insurance companies have acknowledged now that this is a “normal” way to work and may only ask for a risk assessment to be drawn up, in my experience policies and costs have not increased, just been adapted to the situation we have found ourselves in during the COVID pandemic.
The other adaptation that clients may have had to make is way of how they pay for their therapy sessions. Whereas in the past it may have been cash now they have had to adapt payment via internet banking or transferring funds via another source.
Other ways of working online could also be looked at, ie email responses and messaging services. There are many organisations and charities that will offer this service but for us as Hypnotherapists this would not be advisable. We would certainly not be able to offer the trance part of our working session and the interpretation of emails or messages can often be misunderstood by the client. This would certainly be a limitation and risk to the client.
So, in short, we as counsellors/hypnotherapists have had to adapt quickly and professionally to working online. Ensuring the client is happy to work in this way, be able to have the first part of the consultation sitting up, talking and discussing their issues and goals and then for them to be able to lie down or sit back in a relaxed position for the trance part of the session. Clients have adapted well, as have we therapists!