Online Counselling for Adults
What is Online Counselling?
Online counselling aims to provide the same service as face to face counselling, but the way it is delivered is different.
Just as with face to face counselling, online counselling aims to help you clarify difficult feelings, get to know and accept yourself better, think about the choices you have and consider any changes you might want to make in your life.
People come to counselling for a vast range of reasons. Sometimes something specific has happened that remains unresolved, sometimes it might be because things have been building up for a while. Sometimes people are not sure exactly what the problem is but fundamentally they know that something “is not quite right” in life. All of these reasons are valid.
When you seek counselling, you are taken seriously no matter what your reason for coming is. You are listened to without judgement or blame. You are not interrogated and you are not laughed at. You are encouraged to talk about your reasons for coming as honestly as you can. You are encouraged to attend agreed sessions to give the counselling the best chance of being helpful.
Online counselling is different from face to face counselling because you do not physically visit a therapist’s room to have your session(s). Instead you meet with your therapist online. We use the term “online counselling” to include counselling by telephone, online video call, online audio call, instant messenger and email. Meetings can be synchronous or asynchronous, meaning you can meet in real time or you can leave messages which are replied to at a later date (typically by email).
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having counselling online rather than face to face?
Having counselling online is different from being face to face with a therapist. It is not necessarily better or worse (it depends on your viewpoint), but it is different.
Some of the advantages of having counselling online are:
You don’t risk picking up or spreading infections (like COVID 19). You also don’t risk having your counselling sessions interrupted if you or your counsellor suddenly need to self-isolate.
You save time and money as there is no need to travel to and from a therapy room. Online sessions fit more easily into busy schedules.
You can easily access therapy if you live remotely or overseas, or if you travel a lot.
There is less impact on the environment as you don’t need to drive or take public transport to attend sessions.
You can choose from a wide range of types of counselling and of therapists, some of whom specialise in working with particular issues or groups of people – not just those therapists who happen to be geographically close to you.
If you are a parent or guardian, you do not necessarily need to leave your home to attend counselling so you may not need to arrange childcare.
Online counselling may be a more practical option if you live with a disability that limits how easily you can attend sessions in person.
You may simply prefer to connect online rather than face to face in which case online counselling may feel like a natural choice for you.
Some of the disadvantages of having counselling online are:
At times everyone has problems with Internet and telephone connection. There will be times when videos freeze, audio is dropped or there might be a delay in speech. This can interrupt the flow of real-time counselling sessions.
Online communication can never be 100% secure. While we do our utmost to ensure your privacy by using software platforms which encrypt data and do not sell users’ personal data, the privacy of online communication can never be 100% guaranteed.
Is online counselling appropriate for everyone?
Many people find online counselling helpful, and many find it as helpful as face to face counselling.
However, online counselling is not recommended if you:
self-harm regularly and/or severely.
are in the middle of a crisis and feel actively suicidal (i.e. have plans to take your life). If you are in crisis and need help right now then you can find details of organisations who can support you immediately here.
have a diagnosed eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.
live with serious mental health issues, of the type which mean that your view of the world and what is “real” is radically different to other people’s. This includes people with a diagnosis of psychosis.
have a long-standing dependency on alcohol or other substances.
Can you tell me about the background and qualifications of your counsellor?
Amy Mills is a fully qualified and highly experienced counsellor and psychotherapist. She holds a Master’s degree in Counselling and Psychotherapy from the University of East London and is accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (MBACP Accred). Amy is also a Certified Cyber Therapist and a Professional Member of the Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (ACTO). She has worked for over a decade providing face to face counselling services to both adults and children, and since 2019 has been offering counselling, psychotherapy and supervision sessions online and by telephone. You can find more information about Amy’s background and experience here.
Who do you work with online?
Paper Plane Counselling Ltd is a UK based company which means it is subject to UK law. Our professional liability insurance allows us to work with people based anywhere in the UK and worldwide, with the exceptions of the USA and Canada. There are specific laws governing the provision of therapy in these countries which make it impractical for us to offer therapeutic services to people based there. Additionally, some countries monitor their citizens' internet use in ways which would mean the confidentiality of online counselling would likely be compromised. If you are based outside the UK then please contact us to discuss whether we can work with you.
We offer online counselling to children aged 13 years and older, and adults. For more information on arranging online counselling for a child please click here.
What sort of counselling do you offer?
Amy is trained to listen to what you are saying and pick out the key themes which are emerging in order to clarify for you what is going on at the moment. People often feel relieved by this process and you may find that this is all you need.
However, some people may want to know how their attitudes, thoughts and feelings interlink and where they originate from in order to understand themselves better. If this is the case then Amy can help you to think more deeply about how your beliefs have come to be formed and how they are affecting you now.
You may want to go on to think about changes you would like to make in your life. These could be changes to your way of looking at yourself and at the world, at your past and at your future, or they could be practical changes to your daily life. You could choose to talk with Amy about what changes you would like to make and together think through a plan for how these changes could be made, and embedded, so that they stay with you after the counselling sessions have finished.
This style of counselling and psychotherapy* is called Humanistic Integrative. It combines a number of different theories and can be adapted to best meet the needs of each person.
*In the UK, the distinction between counselling and psychotherapy is not legally defined at present. At Paper Plane Counselling Ltd we believe that counselling and psychotherapy are essentially the same thing so we use the term counselling to mean both counselling and psychotherapy. If you are based in a country which does draw a distinction, or if your health insurance body does, please note Amy is qualified in both counselling and psychotherapy.
What do I need to have counselling online?
A safe and confidential place where you can be during your counselling sessions. This means being in a place where you cannot be overheard and your screen cannot be seen by others. Ideally you will be in a place where you won’t be interrupted during your sessions.
A device - such as a computer, tablet or smartphone – to connect to your sessions. For Online Video, Audio or Instant Messaging sessions you will also need reliable Internet connection.
For telephone counselling sessions, you will need to be somewhere where you have a strong telephone signal during sessions.
For Online Video or Audio counselling sessions you will also need a working microphone and webcam.
For Online Video, Audio or Instant Messaging sessions you will need to check that the device which you are intending to use to connect to your counselling sessions is capable of running the software which we typically use to connect. Amy will discuss this with you in advance of your first session.
Patience! When communicating online it is much easier to misunderstand someone than when you are with them face to face, especially if you are speaking just with text. If you think Amy has misunderstood something you’ve said, please be patient and correct her as soon as you can.
What is the first step?
You can contact Amy or book online to arrange an initial discussion of up to 30 minutes. This can be conducted through Instant Messenger, Telephone, Online Audio or Video. In this conversation we will consider together what is prompting you to seek counselling at the moment and whether Amy’s style of counselling is likely to be helpful for you. The conversation is free of charge.
If you and Amy agree that counselling sessions with her are likely to be helpful, then Amy will email you an Assessment Form to complete and return to her, and arrange a time/day for a one-off Assessment appointment with you using the technology which you would like to use for your counselling sessions. This Assessment appointment lasts for up to 50 minutes and is charged for (please see our up to date information on fees). The Assessment appointment involves discussing your situation in depth, and considering what you would like to gain from counselling sessions. It is also an opportunity for you to assess if you think Amy is the right counsellor to work with you.
If Amy doesn’t think counselling with her is appropriate for you then she will do her best to give you suggestions of alternative organisations or people who may be able to support you better.
How do online counselling sessions work?
Video, Audio, Telephone and Instant Messaging sessions
We agree in advance a time and day for your counselling session.
Each counselling session lasts up to 50 minutes. This includes time to discuss and agree the scheduling of the next appointment if necessary.
Sessions start and finish at the pre-agreed time.
If you are meeting by telephone, you can call Amy when you are ready any time from the agreed start of your session time.
For Online Video and Audio sessions we currently use software called Zoom to connect. This software platform encrypts all data sent in transmission and does not require you to become a ‘contact’ with us, which helps to protect your confidentiality. You will need to download Zoom software to the device which you are going to use; you will be prompted to set up an account but you can choose not to do this and still attend the session. Amy will send you a Zoom meeting link prior to each counselling session by encrypted email.
For Instant Messaging sessions we currently use software called Doxy.Me. This platform is fully encrypted, does not require you to register for an account and does not save a transcript of your session. Amy will send you a meeting link prior to your first counselling session by encrypted email.
We agree a regular day when we will have a “session” which means this is the day when Amy will send you a therapeutic email. Amy will send you a brief acknowledgement of each email you send, and one therapeutic email of up to 650 words on the agreed day.
Please send your email(s) to Amy at least 48 hours prior to the agreed session day. You can email Amy once or multiple times between sessions. Please bear in mind that if you send a lot of text in either one or multiple messages, this will affect how much time Amy has to write a therapeutic reply. As a general rule, 3,000 words is the limit clients can submit in total each week to expect a substantive reply.
Amy will email you using Frama RMail software which provides end to end encryption. You can reply to Amy using this software and your replies will be fully encrypted, without you having to download software, register or pay for an account yourself.
How many sessions will I need?
Some people come to counselling for a handful of sessions and some come for much longer – sometimes years. A lot depends on what you want to get out of your counselling sessions, and how long-standing and complex the situations are which you want to think through. At your initial assessment we will discuss roughly how many sessions you might need and use this as a starting point. Together we regularly review how the counselling is going and might agree to either shorten or lengthen our work. This is very much a joint process and you will not be coerced into attending sessions for longer than you need nor will you be encouraged to leave before you feel ready.
How much do counselling sessions cost?
Up to date prices for all services offered can be found here. The fee is normally due at the end of each counselling session and can be paid by online BACS transfer.
We are registered with some private health insurance companies. If you are thinking of claiming the cost of your sessions through private health insurance please ask us to see if we are registered with your provider.
What records do you keep?
Brief notes of all sessions are held securely on electronic and paper-based systems, and your data is available for you to view on request. You can view our full Information and Governance Policy and Procedure on our Privacy page (the link is at the bottom of the webpage). A copy of our Accessible Privacy Statement will be given to you in advance of your initial Assessment appointment. Paper Plane Counselling Ltd is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and our systems comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Are my sessions confidential?
All counselling sessions are confidential. Please see our Confidentiality Policy for full details of exactly what this means.
We cannot 100% guarantee that your online communication with us will be private. (This is impossible for any individual or organisation to do.) However, we do as much as we can to protect your data both on and offline and we strongly suggest that you do the same. We carefully select the third party software which we use to communicate and conduct counselling sessions with you, and we reserve the right to change the platforms we use if their privacy settings change making them unsuitable for delivering therapeutic work.
We will offer you advice on how to protect your confidentiality when engaging in online counselling. We recommend using strong passwords for all accounts you use to connect with us, and changing them regularly. We recommend only sending us information about yourself by encrypted means (not doing so is the electronic equivalent of sending us a postcard written in pencil). All our emails to you are sent in encrypted format and we use Frama RMail software which gives you the option to reply to us in encrypted format without any charge or need to register for an account yourself.
Do you tell the NHS that I am having sessions?
No, the NHS is not routinely told that you are having counselling sessions and any sessions you have with Paper Plane Counselling Ltd will not be recorded on your NHS record.
It is not usually recommended for someone to see two (or more) counsellors at the same time so if you know that your GP has referred you for counselling elsewhere then it is advisable to tell them that you are already receiving counselling sessions with Paper Plane Counselling Ltd. You can then discuss with them whether you need extra support at this time.
Likewise if you are already seeing a counsellor through the NHS, or know that your GP has already referred you for counselling and you are waiting for an appointment through the NHS, please inform Paper Plane Counselling Ltd of this either when you send an enquiry or at your initial assessment session.
Are you available in an emergency?
It is sometimes possible to set up an emergency counselling session at short notice but it will depend on Amy's availability. If you are in crisis and need support with your mental health right now then you can find details of some organisations which you can contact here.