Is online counselling right for you?

Counselling works wonders for the soul, but there are several factors, such as price, availability and waiting lists, which put people off seeing a face-to-face counsellor. This had led to a surge in online counselling services which connect people to counsellors through voice, video or instant messaging.

I’ve been using online counselling on and off since the end of 2016 but I’ve only recently been seeing a counsellor weekly. This kind of service appeals to me because its time efficient, I can schedule sessions during my lunch or after work. It also gave me access to help immediately rather than being stuck on a waiting list for years (not knocking the NHS, just the bastards who cut funding for mental health).

How do you choose an online counsellor?

Choosing an online counsellor is a bit like online dating; you can browse through hundreds of counsellors by age, gender, speciality, qualifications etc. This helps you get more of a feel for the counsellor you’d be happy speaking to. Obviously, you can’t tell that much about someone from their profile but I believe it’s better than being assigned someone randomly.

You can message any counsellors you’d like to speak to and introduce yourself and have a chat about what you’d like to achieve. After this you participate in a taster session to see whether you’d be a good fit and could work together. This is really important because you want to have a good relationship with your counsellor, after all you need to feel comfortable talking to them and feel like you can trust them.

First impressions

The first time I started online counselling I wasn’t really sure what to make of it and to be honest I wasn’t prepared. I found a lovely counsellor and had a few video sessions but I stopped because I had so much to talk about it felt overwhelming. Counselling is never easy and sometimes you need someone encouraging you to keep sharing and pushing through the sessions. I didn’t feel confident directing the sessions and instead of telling my counsellor this I disappeared.

When I returned months later I approached it in a new way and started working with a different counsellor. I was more direct about what I wanted to discuss and told her about all the issues I wanted to talk about from the off (I literally made a list). Since then, we have focused on a particular issue each session and approached it in a structured way which I find really helpful. Counselling is still hard and I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it but it feels like it is helping overall. However, it’s still worth pointing out that you can stop counselling at any time you want.

As someone who suffers with social anxiety, the idea of speaking to a counsellor gives me pangs of anxiety. But I’ve found that speaking to an online counsellor over the phone encourages me to share more in a session than I probably would do face-to-face because I’m not worrying about the social interaction side of things like making eye contact. Don’t get me wrong, I do still feel anxious because I am speaking on the phone, but it’s not as bad as face-to-face and after ten minutes I feel quite at ease. I’m hoping these phone sessions will encourage me to be more comfortable speaking on the phone in general.

The downside to online counselling is that it’s not free. I pay £35 for my sessions which quickly adds up to a lot every month. I’ve had to be more careful with my money and sacrifice things in order to pay for my sessions but I’m lucky enough to be able to do that as I know some people don’t have the luxury to pay for private counselling. The service I use, Plus Guidance, are changing their prices soon so every counsellor will charge £50 instead of their rate so it might be a good idea to find a counsellor you like and then decide a fee with them and go direct.

If you are considering counselling, but are a bit worried, then I would highly recommend online counselling. It has given me access to help when I really needed it and I wish I had known about it when I was younger. Hopefully this post has helped if you are considering it, if you have any questions feel free to email me or tweet me.

Thanks for reading x

Hannah