I began working online in March 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The enforced lockdown gave me an opportunity to reappraise the way I work and enabled me to learn a new skill. Counsellors are expected to regularly undertake training, assess abilities, and develop new ways of working but I see this as integral to my practice. Therefore, lockdown gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate the way I work. Consequently, I am now qualified to work online in addition to working face-to-face and am looking to offer a blended approach, where I incorporate both ways of working. This serves as a means where I can reach out to a greater number of people in need which, in turn, is even more enriching for me.
As well as being a counsellor, I care for a disabled family member. This person benefitted from counselling, but accessibility was always an issue. Appointments would have to be cancelled because someone had parked in front of the wheelchair entrance, for example. When I began my counselling training in 2017, my longterm goal was to become an online counsellor. The pandemic accelerated this process. I completed the last part of my training online, and have never looked back. Many able-bodied clients have enjoyed the creative possibilities of working from their own space. My eyes have been opened to the therapeutic benefits of working online, for everyone.
“I became an online therapist in 2015 after realising that many people who could benefit from regular therapy might be unable to make appointments that they had to also factor in costs to travel to and from sessions, or were put off by the idea of being in a waiting room, or were unable to carve out the time to go out for therapy due to work or childcare, or other factors. My traditional therapy training was quite anti the idea of online therapy, seeing it as less than the “real thing” of face to face, I always felt this was wrong, and that not changing with the times would one unhelpful for clients and therapists alike. We use the internet for everything else, why should therapy be different? I believe in meeting clients where they are, and that the right match between a client and a therapist shouldn’t just be dictated by geographical proximity. Being able to meet clients online has also allowed for flexibility when clients have needed to relocate, changed work, or had major life changes like having children.
Since training in online therapy, as well as the UK, I have worked with clients in Malaysia, India, France, Slovenia, and Hong Kong. For many English Speaking expats, the ability to have therapy in their first language is invaluable.
I currently still live in the UK, although my dream is to move to a slightly warmer climate! Working online makes this a possibility too.”
Back in the day, when I trained as a counsellor, there was no mention of online work, and there was a happy assumption that all work would be face to face. I am hoping times have changed and that future therapists are shown the opportunities that working remotely can bring during their training. Sadly, it took a pandemic for me to be pushed into online work, but I’ve loved it! Back at the beginning of the first lockdown I began training, and have enjoyed, and learnt so much that I am now undertaking a course in online supervision. Will the Covid restrictions being lifted change me back to being solely face to face? Absolutely not! I plan on offering only part of my private practice as face-to-face work, the rest will remain in a virtual world – I believe in its merits that much.
Katrina Healey-Davis is ACTO’s International Director