As a result of lock-down conditions, the BACP advise that the safest way to access counselling is remotely. I have spent some time researching and I hope that I have come up with some useful points to consider for my clients, and myself, as we enter a hopefully temporary stage in the counselling process. Who knows, some clients may find that they prefer one of these forms of counselling!

First things first, I have been trained by the Samaritans to offer telephone counselling, and I completed a certificate in Online Counselling Skills from the CPCAB. I do currently work both online and via the telephone. Just as an aside, I don’t offer counselling via email or text message.

OK, so if you are a client, new or existing, how can you access counselling sessions with me during lockdown? Firstly, refresh your knowledge of our Counselling Agreement. And have a think: where are you going to be when you contact me? Is it a confidential space? I will be in the Head Shed, so at my end the session will be as confidential as usual.

Sessions will be charged at their usual rate, and it goes without saying that you will need to book in as usual, agreeing which method we are going to use.

Telephone Counselling

My phone number is 07876 506557. I will be in the Head Shed at the agreed time; call me when you are ready to begin.

Online Counselling

There are various options to do teleconferencing or video conferencing. Some will require you to install software on your computer, tablet or phone, and some will only work with certain devices.

An important factor for all these is encryption, which makes it basically impossible to intercept the video or the sound. Some systems offer end-to-end encryption, meaning that the data is encrypted all the way from your device to mine and back again. Others don’t, meaning that although the data is encrypted as it goes over the internet, it gets decrypted as it goes through the provider’s servers, so in theory someone could eavesdrop. You need to decide how much of a risk that is compared to using the software you prefer.

Below I’ve listed the services that I can use; if you have a different preference then let me know and I’ll investigate!

Apple FaceTime

  • End-to-end encryption
  • Only supports Apple iPhone, iPad and Mac

If you have access to one of the above Apple devices, then FaceTime may be the easiest and most secure way to have a remote session. Just start the FaceTime app and select my number from the list or click the ‘+’ icon to add my phone number (07876 506557). Apple has instructions for iPhone/iPad.

Signal

  • End-to-end encryption
  • Supports iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and Mac (requires app install)

You may not have heard of Signal, but it is well known in the IT industry for its high security. It works in a similar way to WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, with text messaging and video calling, both having end-to-end encryption. You use your phone number as your ID, so you make a call to me by selecting me from your contacts or by tapping on the pencil icon and selecting ‘Find by Phone Number’. Signal have articles explaining how to get started.

Skype

  • Only supports end-to-end encryption for audio calls
  • Supports iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and Mac (requires app install)

Skype is pretty much the original video calling software, and is now owned by Microsoft, so it comes pre-installed on Windows 10 and if you have a Microsoft account you can use this to log in. It doesn’t have end-to-end encryption for video calls, but it uses Microsoft servers…

To call me on Skype, find me using my email address.

WhatsApp

  • Does not have end-to-end encryption
  • Supports iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and Mac (requires app install)

Primarily a text messaging app, WhatsApp also supports video calls. The company is owned by Facebook. Contact me using my phone number (07876 506557).

Zoom

  • Does not have end-to-end encryption
  • Supports iPhone, iPad and Android via an app, and desktop Chrome or Firefox using a browser plugin

Use of Zoom has exploded during the lockdown, with many companies and even the House of Commons using it to conduct meetings. There have been some problems with security, but these can be avoided by making sure you set it up correctly.

Payment

I use Square online checkout, and they can take payment with a VISA/Mastercard credit/debit card, Apple Pay and Google Pay. On booking your session, I will send you a link to a web page to process your payment.