By now, it is likely that you have heard of online counselling or telehealth, and may be wondering whether its right for you.

In the past, it was more difficult than it needed to be to get help for things like depression, anxiety, trauma or relationship issues. A lack of information and the stigma of visiting a psychologist, counsellor or therapist would often get in the way. Whilst most people do have the option of talking to their own Doctor first, all too often people didn’t get the help they needed for one reason or another.

Nowadays we are becoming increasingly comfortable using online services. Consequently, an increasing number of people are finding the help they need online. A quick online search can now help people find counselling and book an appointment in a matter of minutes.

Online Video Counselling services are now making talking to a trained mental health care professional easier than ever. If it suits you and your situation you can now talk to your counsellor from your home or office. In fact, anywhere that works for you.

Here, we try to answer the questions you might have.

Does online counselling / tele-health work?

An important factor when deciding whether to use online video therapy will be whether it works or not and how safe it is.

With advances in technology and training, online video counselling is more effective than ever, especially when the right tools are used. As well as learning which technologies are best suited to counselling, counsellors are now more aware of when to and when not to use online video counselling. They might give you a questionnaire up front, or they might ask you certain questions in the first session. They are doing that to check that the counselling you are getting and the way it is being conducted are appropriate for you.

By using a high quality and secure video connection a counsellor is able to provide effective psychological care and counselling in the majority of cases.

Psychotherapists generally report that they can see and hear their client sufficiently well. This is especially true where both parties on the call are used to communicating online. Given the number of us that use Video Conferencing at work, or to “FaceTime” or “Skype” the family, many more of us are getting comfortable with online video each day.

Regulatory standards now usually require a therapist to offer you exactly the same standards and duty of care for online counselling as you would get if you visited them in their own offices. The only thing that changes is that you aren’t physically in their office. Being online should not equate to reduced standards if you use a reputable experienced online therapist.

Speaking more broadly, 65% of those surveyed in America report that their comfort levels with online and video technology are high enough that they would consider an online session for their next appointment with their medical practitioner.

Being able to book, pay and visit your therapist from the comfort of your home, or safe place is an added advantage for many. No more visiting a remote office, appointments squeezed into your working day, or worried that someone might see you. Instead with just a few clicks you can browse available appointments and have your appointment whenever and from wherever you want. This is especially useful for those that suffer from any form of anxiety, or even those who don’t like making phone calls.

Your Counsellor or Therapist will let you know if online counselling isn’t right for you

Generally, online counselling is suitable for mood disorders where something is affecting your levels of happiness or is impacting your ability to achieve goals including sustaining relationships and career objectives.

Anxiety, depression, parenting, eating, sleeping, trauma, anger, relationship problems, family conflicts, self-esteem etc are all typical uses of online counselling.

Not everyone is suited to online video counselling. As with all forms of Psychology, your therapist will help you understand whether online appointments are right for you.

Online video counselling would not, for instance, be suitable for those affected by serious psychiatric disorders or experiencing thoughts of harming themselves or others. It is also not suitable for use in emergency situations or where someone may be at risk of harm.

What to look for when choosing your online counselling

Select a Counsellor who is experienced at using online counselling. They will know how to ensure your safety and confidentiality at all times. Importantly they will know when not to use online counselling, and how to communicate in a way that gets the very best.

An experienced online counsellor will be mindful that your use of Online Video Counselling should be known only to you and your counsellor, and will use a service that ensures that. Whilst offering great quality and encrypted video conferencing, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and their equivalents have some weak spots that may leave evidence of your session behind. These platforms may also not give the required notifications in the unlikely event that they have a data confidentiality breach.

Better are those companies that use products that are able to meet the US HIPAA standards (the regulatory standard covering technology used for medical practice in the US). Whilst this is the US standard it still sets the global benchmark for data protection. Example products that can meet this standard are VSEE and ZOOM, although others are available.

Can I access Online Counselling / Telehealth under Medicare?

Telehealth services with a Psychologist are now available under Medicare. To be eligible to receive these services you must: have an eligible mental health condition and a referral from a GP or psychiatrist; live in an eligible rural, remote or very remote location; be located at least 15 kilometres by road from the mental health professional; not be a patient of an emergency department or admitted to hospital at the time of the service. You may still access online counselling without the Medicare rebate if you do not meet these criteria for the full fee of $150. Please check with your private health insurance for rebate eligibility. Prior to your Counselling appointment, we will require you to complete both a Client Questionnaire and acknowledge our Confidentiality and Cancellations Policy.  If you are booking your first appointment with us, the guidance for completing these documents will be emailed to you prior to your appointment. Please note there is a 24-hr Cancellation policy. If sessions are cancelled less than 24-hrs in advance full payment for the session is required.

Getting ready for your online session

In order to get the best from the session that you have booked with your counsellor, you should find somewhere suitable for doing your sessions from. Typically this would be:

* A comfortable place
* Somewhere free from distractions
* Somewhere where you can be alone and your needs for confidentiality can be respected

Importantly you should make sure that you are ready for your call prior to your session. Generally, this means checking that your device is connected to the internet with a faster enough link and that you have downloaded any necessary applications or software. If you can FaceTime, Skype or watch Netflix or similar on your device it will almost certainly support your online video counselling or therapy session. Typically, a small safe application needs to be downloaded to your Mac or PC, and an application installed on your mobile device.

Generally, your counsellor will tell you what you need to do in their welcome and appointment confirmation emails to you after you book. They may even send you a questionnaire for completion before your first session. If you have any queries, call their office before the start of your appointment. After all, you don’t want to waste the precious time that you have booked and paid for on getting a connection working.

Choosing Aware Psychology & Coaching for your online counselling session.

Michal Baghlani is the head psychologist and founder of Aware Psychology & Coaching. She has worked for over 14 years in the area of employee health and wellbeing as a workplace trainer, coach and change facilitator. Her background and skillset are ideally suited to providing online counselling.

For online booking, we use the highly regarded Acuity Scheduling. Payments are taken securely via PayPal, and online counselling sessions using Zoom or VSEE both specialist video conferencing tool.

Contact Aware Psychology and Coaching today and book an appointment with Michal through our website https://awarepsychology.com

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