Benefits of online counselling
Whilst online counselling isn't for everyone, there are some advantages that you may like to consider:
- Sense of anonymity - whilst our service is not strictly anonymous, some people may feel safer and less confronted using email counselling. For some people, this can lead to them being more open that they would be in a face to face environment.
- Accessibility - for those of you studying by distance, online counselling offers you the convenience of being able to access the service from wherever you are in the world.
- Convenience - for those of you with limited time during the day, our email service allows you to access your 'appointment' at any time, even at 2am!
- A good 'taster' - for some people, going to a counsellor for the first time can be very daunting. Online access allows you to test out counselling in a less direct manner, before attending a face to face appointment.
- Reflection - if you are using the email service, you can take as long as you like to compose your email and reflect on what you have said.
Unfortunately, online counselling is not appropriate for everyone, particularly if:
- You are experiencing a crisis situation
- You are in physical danger
- You are at risk of self-harm, suicide, or harming others
If you are experiencing any of these, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
There are also some limitations to working with a counsellor online. These limitations should not stop you from accessing the service, however it is important that you are aware of them.
- Text based communication – you know from text messages and emails that you send to friends that sometimes what you mean to say is misinterpreted, due to the limitations of using text to communicate. Our counsellors are well trained in the use of text based counselling, however there may be misunderstandings from time to time. To minimise this risk, always ask for clarification if you don't understand, and use emoticons and descriptive language to help your counsellor understand what you mean.
- Lack of non verbal cues – a large proportion of communication is made up of non verbal cues. These cues are not present in email services, however our counsellors are trained in how to make up for the lack of these cues.
- Disruptions – in a face to face appointment, you are in the counsellors office with few distractions. When you are accessing an appointment at home, you may have other people or situations around you that disrupt your train of thought. We recommend that you take measures to limit these disruptions when you access online. Turn off your phone, sit in a private, quiet room, and set aside time for your appointment. Our counsellors will always treat your appointment the same as a face to face appointment, so their concentration will never be disrupted during your appointment.
- Confidentiality – if you are using the email service, you must ensure that you are only using your UTAS email address, and that your emails are not forwarded to another email address. We cannot guarantee your confidentiality if you use another email account.
- Technology – there are times when technology fails us. If there is a problem with the technology, your counsellor will phone you to let you know. Similarly, if you are experiencing difficulties with your technology, contact us to let us know (1800 817 675 in Australia).
When are we available?
By its nature, you can access emails from your counsellor at any time. However, your counsellor will set aside one hour each time they plan to contact you. You should consider this time your appointment and plan to send any emails you want them to read prior to this time. They will discuss and arrange this with you.
What types of online counselling do we do?
Currently UTAS offers asynchronous email for online counselling. More options are planned for the future.
Our email service is not real time, however just like in a typical appointment, your counsellor will set aside a 1 hour time slot, during which time they will read and respond to your emails, and ask questions for you to consider. You will always know when they are going to send their next email to you so you have time to think and reflect on what they have said.
What equipment do I need?
Being online allows you to consult a counsellor from wherever you are in the world, provided you have a computer that supports access to your UTAS email. Remember, forwarding sessions to other emails accounts negates the commitment to confidentiality.
What do I do if online counselling isn't for me?
Our face to face counselling is available on campus (CCC, Newnham or Sandy Bay) from 9am – 5pm. To make an appointment contact us. You can also access telephone counselling.
If you are experiencing a crisis situation contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Privacy & Confidentiality
As with all UTAS services, the information you provide to your online counsellor will only be used for the primary purpose which it is collected and will not be disclosed to any third party without your consent, unless this is required or permitted by law. For more information about UTAS Counselling's privacy statement see the Counselling Information For Students fact sheet.
Please read on for additional things you can do to protect your privacy in an online setting.
Remember that only emails between the counsellor and your UTAS email address are safe. If you forward your emails to your hotmail, gmail, yahoo, or other accounts, it is no longer safe. We recommend that you turn off any forwarding if you intend to use the email service. If you do not do that, it is at your own risk.
Also remember that if you save or forward emails, there is a risk that they may be intercepted, or that your little brother might open them up if they're on the desktop. We don't recommend that you forward emails to anyone. They may be intercepted by a third party. And of course, everyone's experiences are different, and what works for you might not be right for your friends or family. Encourage them to seek their own support.
So that's all you need to know about online counselling to make an informed decision. Want to give it a shot?