Online Counselling for Children and Young People
We offer online counselling for children and young people aged 13 years and older.
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 give children time and a neutral, confidential space to think about their worries and develop healthy ways of coping. This helps them feel happier now and also gives them invaluable skills for their future.
Children of all ages find counselling useful for a whole range of problems. Sometimes something specific has happened which they might need support with, sometimes it’s a whole combination of things. Sometimes it’s not always obvious to adults what the cause of the problem might be but they can see that their child is unhappy.
A few examples of what children might be dealing with are: bereavement, moving house or school, parents not getting on well with each other or separating, a sibling’s illness, changes to friendships, bullying, concerns about school work or sport, a sense of not doing well enough in life. Older children may also be figuring out a new identity for themselves as separate from their family both in person and online, negotiating changing friendships and relationships, considering their sexuality or gender identity, becoming familiar with their changing body as it goes through puberty, dealing with bullying, worries about exams and their future. Some children have been unfortunate enough to have been the victims or perpetrators of abuse and some may have been placed in care.
Many children assume that they are the only ones who have ever experienced particular problems, and consequently can feel isolated, ashamed or abnormal. Counselling can help children understand their feelings and behaviour as responses to their difficulties and their lives more broadly.
When a child comes to counselling they are treated with respect. They are listened to without judgment or blame. They are not interrogated, they are not talked down to and they are not laughed at. Each child is encouraged to talk about themselves, either with words or through pictures, worksheets and creative representations. It is the child who sets the agenda for sessions and decides what will or won’t be discussed.
Online counselling is different from face to face counselling because your child does not physically visit a therapist’s room to have session(s). Instead your child meets with their 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 your child can meet either in real time or can leave messages for their counsellor 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 and your child don’t risk picking up or spreading infections (like COVID 19). Your child doesn’t risk having their counselling sessions interrupted if they or their counsellor suddenly needs to self-isolate.
You save time and money as there is no need to bring your child to and from a therapy room. Online sessions fit more easily into busy schedules.
Your child can easily access therapy if they live remotely or overseas, or if they travel a lot.
There is less impact on the environment as you don’t need to drive your child or use 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 (e.g. children) – not just those therapists who happen to be geographically close to you.
You do not necessarily need to leave your home while your child attends counselling meaning you do not need to arrange childcare for other children you may have.
Online counselling may be a more practical option if you or your child lives with a disability that limits how easily your child can attend sessions in person.
Your child may simply prefer to connect online rather than face to face in which case online counselling may feel like a natural choice.
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 child’s 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 for people who:
self-harm regularly and/or severely.
are in the middle of a crisis and feel actively suicidal (i.e. have plans to take their life). If your child is in crisis and needs 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 their view of the world and what is “real” is radically different from 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 counselling to children and young people aged 6 – 18 in schools and private settings. She has also worked extensively with parents, carers and teachers helping them to think about the difficulties children face and how they can best support them.
Amy is a qualified clinical supervisor, overseeing the practice of other counsellors working with children and young people. Since 2019, Amy has been offering counselling, psychotherapy and supervision sessions online and by telephone. You can find more information about Amy’s background and experience here.
Amy holds an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Scheme (DBS) check which you can view on request.
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. Please click here for more information on online counselling for adults.
What sort of counselling do you offer?
Amy is trained to listen to what children are saying and pick out the key themes which are emerging in order to help clarify what is troubling them and how they are feeling. Children often feel enormous relief at this process which can give them a profound sense of being understood.
Children have less autonomy than adults to make practical decisions about their lives. However, they still have choices about how they interpret situations, how they feel and how they behave. Some children want to think about changes they would like to make to their lives. For example, changes to the way they express their feelings, who they are friends with or what they choose to take responsibility for. Some children also want to discuss practical changes they want to make with their parents or guardians and Amy may help them think about what they want to say or facilitate a discussion with both the child and parent or guardian present.
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 does my child need to have counselling online?
A safe and confidential place where they can be during their counselling sessions. This means being in a place where they cannot be overheard and their screen cannot be seen by others. Ideally they will be in a place where they won’t be interrupted during their sessions.
A device - such as a computer, tablet or smartphone – to connect to their sessions. Ideally this should belong to them rather than to their school or college. For Online Video, Audio or Instant Messaging sessions they will also need reliable Internet connection.
For telephone counselling sessions, they will need to be somewhere where they have a strong telephone signal during sessions.
For Online Video or Audio counselling sessions they 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 they are intending to use to connect to their counselling sessions is capable of running the software which we typically use to connect. Amy will discuss this with you in advance of her first meeting with your child.
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 your child thinks Amy has misunderstood something they’ve said, please ask them to be patient and correct her as soon as they can.
What is the first step?
You (the child’s parent or legal guardian) 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 for your child at the moment and whether Amy’s style of counselling is likely to be helpful for them. 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 either Telephone, Online Audio or Online Video. This Assessment appointment lasts for up to 50 minutes and is charged for (please see here for up to date information on fees). The Assessment appointment involves discussing your child’s situation in depth, and considering what you would like them 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 your child and to ask any questions you might have about the counselling process.
Once the paperwork is completed, Amy will arrange with you a date for an assessment meeting between her and your child. At this meeting, Amy will discuss with your child what counselling is, how they can use it and what they would like to use their sessions for. They will agree a contract together including confidentiality, time (start and finish of sessions), safety, respect for each other, your child’s hopes for the counselling and their rights to any records kept about them.
If Amy doesn’t think counselling with her is appropriate for your child then she will do her best to give you suggestions of alternative organisations or people who may be able to support them better.
How do online counselling sessions work?
Video, Audio, Telephone and Instant Messaging sessions
We agree in advance a time and day for each of your child’s counselling sessions. These can be scheduled to suit you and your child, and can either be at the same time/day on a regular basis, or can be scheduled as and when needed.
Each counselling session lasts up to 50 minutes. Sessions start and finish at the pre-agreed time; however, your child can choose to end their session early if they do not want to talk for the full time.
If your child is meeting Amy by telephone, they can call Amy when they are ready any time from the agreed start of their 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 your child to become a ‘contact’ with us, which helps to protect their confidentiality. You will need to download Zoom software to the device which your child is going to use; you will be prompted to set up an account but you can choose not to do this and your child can still attend the session. Amy will send your child a Zoom meeting link prior to each counselling session by encrypted email.
For Instant Messaging sessions we currently use software called Signal. This platform is fully encrypted. It does require your child to set up an account and become a ‘contact’ with us on Signal. To do this your child will need to give a name and telephone number but no other information.
We agree a regular day when we will have a “session” which means this is the day when Amy will send your child a therapeutic email. Amy will send your child a brief acknowledgement of each email they send, and one therapeutic email of up to 650 words on the agreed day.
You child will need to send their email(s) to Amy at least 48 hours prior to the agreed session day. They can email Amy once or multiple times between sessions. Please bear in mind that if they 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 they can submit in total each week to expect a substantive reply.
Amy will email your child using Frama RMail software which provides end to end encryption. They can reply to Amy using this software and their replies will be fully encrypted, without them having to download software, register or pay for an account.
Does my child have to have particular symptoms in order to have counselling with you?
No, your child does not have to display any particular behaviour nor meet a threshold in order to qualify for counselling with Paper Plane Counselling Ltd.
Do you work with children without the knowledge of their parents or guardians?
No, we only offer counselling to children and young people under the age of 18 with their parent or guardian’s full knowledge and signed consent. If you are a child or young person and you are seeking support but don’t want your parent or guardian to know about it then we recommend either Kooth or The Mix which are well-established organisations which offer this.
Counselling always takes some time to set up. If you need more urgent support with your mental health right now then you can find some useful contact details of organisations you can speak to by telephone, text chat or email here.
How many sessions will my child need?
How long children will need to come for greatly varies depending on how they engage with the process and what they hope to take from it. At the initial assessment we will discuss roughly how many sessions your child might need. Throughout the work we hold regular reviews to discuss how the counselling is going and whether it needs to be extended or curtailed. Amy is committed to working in the best interests of children so will not seek to end sessions before the child is ready nor prolong them beyond the point of being useful.
It is important to commit to attending the sessions that have been booked, as frequently missed sessions negatively affect how much your child is likely to get out of the counselling process.
At the Assessment appointment we will discuss what would best suit you and your child taking into consideration age and ability to concentrate, what you and your child hope to get from counselling, other commitments you may have to juggle and financial cost.
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 child’s 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 child’s data is available for them 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 child’s sessions confidential?
All counselling sessions are confidential. This is so that children feel safe to express their worries fully and trust that what they choose to talk about will not be discussed elsewhere without their permission. Parents and carers are not routinely told the detail of what happens during their child’s counselling sessions without their child’s consent. Some parents find this unusual but it is necessary for counselling to be effective. There are limits to confidentiality: if children were to claim that they are at risk of serious harm, or that someone else is at risk of serious harm, then appropriate steps would be taken to keep them and others safe. You can view our confidentiality policy and we will discuss confidentiality in more depth at the initial assessment.
We cannot 100% guarantee that your child’s 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 child’s 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, 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 and your child advice on how to protect your child’s confidentiality when engaging in online counselling. We recommend using strong passwords for all accounts you and your child 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 or the school that my child is having counselling sessions?
No, neither the NHS nor your child’s school are routinely told that your child is having counselling sessions. Any sessions your child has with Paper Plane Counselling Ltd will not be recorded on your child’s NHS record nor on your child’s school records.
If you wish to inform your child’s GP or your child’s school that your child is having counselling sessions then you can do so. Information will not be shared about your child’s counselling sessions without your consent except in the instance of safeguarding concerns.
Generally speaking, it is not recommended that a person sees two (or more) counsellors at the same time. This applies to children as well as to adults. If your child has been referred or is already attending counselling through the NHS or another provider and you still wish them to have additional counselling with Paper Plane Counselling Ltd, please make this clear when you contact Amy or at the initial assessment appointment. If your child’s GP or a member of school staff wishes to refer your child for counselling then it would be helpful to inform them that your child already attends sessions with Paper Plane Counselling Ltd. You can then discuss with them what further support, if any, your child might benefit from.
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 your child is in crisis and needs support with their mental health right now then you can find details of some organisations which you can contact here.