Is Remote Counselling Effective ?

In March 2020, the novel coronavirus resulted in ‘stay at home’ orders and business closures across our Country, and across the world.   Many support services have migrated to and remain online only, which is still a challenge for some, as technology and its related costs are a ‘privilege’, it is not in everyone’s budget.  I was fortunate that my business was able to continue to operate, migrating to tele-behavioural health, offering sessions both over the phone and online.  And while I have returned to offering in-person sessions, I am leaving the option of tele-behavioural sessions open, giving clients the choice of how they would prefer to connect with me.

I am often asked how effective sessions are over the phone, or online.  There is ample evidence indicating remote sessions are just as effective as in-person sessions, remembering that suicide prevention helplines have been saving lives for decades, as well as how often do you feel ‘unburdened’ after getting off a phone call or Facetime chat with someone in your usual support network.   

The best predictor of success in therapy is your relationship with your helper.   Feeling heard, respected, and understood in a non-judgmental atmosphere contributes to that relationship. An important part of my work involves checking in with clients every session regarding what is working for them, and what could make sessions better for them, I rely on their feedback to continue to create an atmosphere that works for their individual preferences.  This is especially important with online and phone sessions, as there are fewer non-verbal cues to observe and check-in around.  

A few themes I have noticed in my remote work since March:

* For some people, the online and telephone modes create a safer distance, or more comfortable distance, than in-person sessions, especially those clients living with severe anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, who have trouble leaving their home, going out in public or talking to strangers.

*For those who live with depression, and have a hard time getting out of bed some days, the convenience of a remote session enables them to engage with counselling when depression would have robbed them of the energy and motivation to trek out to an office.

*The convenience of remote sessions also accommodates people who live in remote areas, or have mobility issues, or busy schedules, where distance, travel, or traffic, could be barriers to accessing services. 

Interestingly, the groups I’ve been running online have a zero drop-out rate compared to when we run groups in-person (which we hope to get back to eventually), the factors of time, travel, traffic can get in the way of people attending consistently.   I also believe the social connection that online groups provide in these days of keeping our social bubbles small keeps people coming back as well.

Please don’t confuse social distancing with social isolation, if you prefer to stay distanced, but have been considering checking out counselling, feel free to reach out and see if we might be a good fit.

604-888-9294 or shannon@simmscounselling.com