The COVID-19 global pandemic forced many of our physical, in-person services to go digital — one of which has been counseling. Many counsellors are scrambling to gather the tools and technology they need to successfully shift their practice online. Particularly for counsellors who have never done this before, it can be tough to know what you actually need for an online counselling practice to go smoothly. We’ve put together a checklist to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Earbuds or headphones
Many of us who are isolating aren’t doing it alone. Whether you’re sharing your space with family, a roommate, or a partner, it can be tough to set and maintain your privacy. Headphones are a really simple way to create a non-physical boundary. Not only is it less disruptive to the person you’re sharing your space with, but it’s a great way to get in the zone and focus on your work.
A fast laptop or computer to support a video platform
Video platforms are essential for an online counselling practice. They give us the face-to-face contact that’s so necessary for picking up client cues and expressions. But of course, you’ll need something to access the platform. It doesn’t have to be fancy — any computer or laptop that gets you online and supports your video platform of choice is perfect.
So, you’ve got your earbuds and your computer. You’ve chosen a video platform. Now you need the connection to support it. A WIFI network of 250bps is optimal for maintaining clear audio and video during your session. It sounds like tech jargon, but your service provider will know exactly what you’re talking about.
Is your audio still lagging during the session? Ask your client to mute themselves on the video platform, and call them on their cell phone or landline. That way you’re able to maintain the face-to-face contact through video, but you won’t have to deal with audio cutting out. The last thing you want during an especially sensitive moment is to be unable hear your client.
Built-in or external microphone
Clear audio is essential for the back-and-forth conversation, and to pick up cues in their tone of voice. Most of today’s computers and laptops come with a good quality built-in microphone. But if not, or if you want to upgrade, you can buy an external microphone online or at the store. These are usually really simple to get working — just plug them into your computer, and you’re good to go.
Make your cell phone work for you
There’s a good chance you have one of these. But how you use it is what’s important. Your phone can be like a personal assistant, if utilized correctly — keeping you on-track, on-time, and on your toes. Use it to plug in all your scheduled calls, meetings, and appointments. And, you can set up push notifications so you never miss a beat.
Stay connected between sessions
With the physical world shifting online for all of us, including our clients, it can be tough to ensure they’re doing the work between meetings. A digital homework app like Therachat is an amazing tool to keep you connected to your clients. With skill-building activities, daily reminders to stay on-track, mindfulness exercises, and emotion tracking, it’s an innovative way to help your clients feel supported between appointments — especially when they’re missing the in-person experience.
Looking for tips for using Therachat as a clinician? Check out our blog posts with advice specifically for clinicians here
Keep certain aspects traditional
While being technology-forward can be a game changer for you and your clients, some things are best kept traditional. We recently chatted with one of Wellin5’s counsellors, Amelia Larson, MSW, RSW about her best-practices when it comes to tech-forward counselling.
“Im sort of old school. I take notes in a notebook. When we introduce technology into a therapy setting, it can divide the attention differently. In my sessions, I always use a notebook because I want to avoid clicking away on the keyboard while a client is sharing some of their toughest moments with me.”
Amelia’s strategy allows counsellors to fulfill the ethical requirements of note-keeping in a respectful way.
Shifting to online counselling doesn’t have to be stressful
The sudden shift from an in-person practice to an online counselling practice is unprecedented, and it hasn’t give counsellors much time to plan. It can be a big change for both you and your clients. But with the right equipment and setup, it can feel almost like you’re face-to-face.
For more ways to elevate your client experience during isolation and beyond, check out Therachat’s innovative features.
Sarina Arefzadeh is a Vancouver-based content marketer, mental health advocate, and pop culture enthusiast. She brings her education in psychology and sociology to unpack topics like tech, gender, mental health, and online life. She’s a speaker with Jack.org, regularly visiting schools to talk to students about their mental health, what it means, and how they can be there for themselves and their peers. Connect with Sarina on LinkedIn, Twitter, or by email.