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ACTO patron Anne Stokes and champion of online therapy is challenging our profession to think differently
Over the years many of you will have heard of, listened to presentations at conferences, read books or articles by or indeed spoken to Anne Stokes. Anne is a passionate advocate of online counselling and psychotherapy and a practitioner of online work since the late 1990’s. Earlier this year, we were delighted when Anne accepted our invitation to become a patron of ACTO in recognition of her service to the profession.
Last month, you may have read about our plans to refresh our organisation for the challenges which lay ahead, as the online community grows to accommodate the environment, we now work in.
In July, I therefore invited Anne to give a presentation to the ACTO Board. Anne’s experience in the field of online psychotherapy and counselling is immense. Her book Online Supervision (Psychotherapy 2.0) is undoubtedly a must-read text for all online practitioners. I wanted to give Anne the opportunity of challenging our organisation to embrace the new opportunities and help us to overcome the hurdles presented following the global pandemic. Since March, we have experienced significant membership growth in ACTO and of course thousands of psychotherapists and counsellors have migrated from face-to-face sessions to meeting with clients online.
I thought I would share one of the key points that Anne made: –
“The COVID-19 pandemic feels like it is a real watershed moment for the online counselling and therapy profession, turning our world upside down.
“In recent years, the number of therapists practising online has increased significantly. However, since March these numbers have grown exponentially. Many practitioners are now working online – because they have to. We need to respond to that, bringing people into our online community.
“For example, how are we going to ensure a consistently high quality of service to clients as those offering counselling and therapy online increases substantially? We must reach out to training providers and encourage people who may do things differently, whilst maintaining our ethical standards and values.”
Many of us have been working online for a period of time. Sometimes – given our enthusiasm and passion for online working – it can be difficult to understand the steep learning curve and issues facing other therapists who are new to this form of working. Our response must be inclusive and positive: supporting practitioners and those in the field of training, with the key objective of raising standards and ensuring the quality of our work.
Anne’s contribution is timely. We have recently set ourselves new goals and aspirations to raise standards and encourage discussion and debate, as we welcome more members into our online community. Anne is encouraging us to do more – and to rethink how we do it.
Inspiring words. And words which we will translate into action.
Thank you, Anne.
Adrian M Rhodes
It is easy to do therapy online; but it is difficult to do therapy online well,
Raising standards and making ACTO the go-to place for online counselling and psychotherapy. Those are the two principal goals of ACTO’s new Chair, Adrian Rhodes, who leads the volunteer Board of Directors with representatives from across the profession. And for Adrian, the new role comes at a time of fundamental change as the world adjusts to life during the Covid-19 pandemic, necessitating innovative ways of working for counsellors and psychotherapists.
The lockdown and the introduction of social distancing measures have resulted in a massive increase in the numbers of psychotherapists and counsellors seeking to work online. Earlier this year, ACTO responded by publishing security and privacy guidance for practitioners providing online therapy. However, further work is needed as practitioners and services adapt to the technology and ways of engaging with their clients.
Adrian, who qualified as a psychotherapist in the 1980s, worked as a psychotherapist in the NHS and is also an Honorary Canon in the Church of England, believes that the growth in practitioners and services working online is a positive response to the crisis; however, it offers fresh challenges too, to ensure that a high standard of quality is provided. As Chair, Adrian is committed to leading the organisation in this exciting, albeit challenging, new phase of its history.
ACTO is a body with a clear objective: to support counsellors and psychotherapists who work online. With 15 years’ experience, we believe that this knowledge and expertise is invaluable at the current time.
Clearly, the landscape that practitioners and training providers operate in has been transformed since the start of the pandemic. Since March, many psychotherapists and counsellors have started to work online, some with limited experience and training. The need to equip our colleagues with the right skills and expertise is therefore urgent. It is easy to do therapy online; but it is difficult to do therapy online well.
To make these transformative changes, ACTO will build up its repository of resources and knowledge around online therapy. Furthermore, as an organisation we will drive up standards of practice and training, provide information about working internationally and improve access to key research.
The goal: for ACTO to be the ‘go-to’ place for discussion and debate for psychotherapists and counsellors.
ACTO provides a range of services to its members, including a directory for therapists and supervisors, forums for practitioners to discuss relevant issues and access to digital tools.
If you would like to enquire about joining ACTO or find out more regarding our work, please go to the ACTO website or get in touch.
Adrian M. Rhodes
This is ACTO’s very short clarification on the use of platforms.
We do not have the time or the expertise to say something about every platform. Another reason is that technology changes fast that what we say today may not be true tomorrow.
We are pointing towards one of our organisational members Privacy4 who are offering a free month now.
And this article has a lot of useful information. It was written with children and young people in mind but there is useful information about the use of platforms that applies to us all.
If you have any other questions about working online please don’t hesitate to contact us. Keep in mind that we are all volunteers and we are getting a lot of questions at the moment, but we are trying to get to yours as fast as we can.
Please look here for the latest guidance
In early November, The Guardian posted an article about Tim Berners-Lee idea for a new “contract for the web”. Tim Berners-Lee is the founder of the web and he is very concerned with the privacy of online users on the internet.
Tim Berners-Lee has launched a global campaign to protect the online users for abuse and discrimination among other important issues with the use of the internet.
He wants governments, companies and individuals to support a “Contract for the Web” with the main goal to protect people’s rights and freedom on the internet. He calls it a “Magna Carta for the web”. The aim is for all to have access to the internet, in a freely, safely, secured and without fear of abuse.
“Magna Carta for the web”
ACTO welcome this campaign and is very pleased with already so many companies supporting a contract for the web. More than 50 organisations have signed the contract so far and the number is hopefully growing every day.
The online world is a wonderful and exciting world where opportunities are endless. Unfortunately, the internet also brings fake news, online bullying, websites being hacked and personal information might end up being shared online, which was never intended to be shared for the wide public.
At ACTO we work very hard to keep online therapy safe and secure but accessible for all. We keep up with current research in the area, we keep developing as online software becomes available and the technology furthers.
We only promote and work with online platforms that can show evidence of a secured and confidential service to clients, therapists and counsellor.
ACTO is using its strong relationships with other professional therapy. and related, bodies to ensure that these high standards are maintained across all modalities and online work.
ACTO’s online training requirements
ACTO is also working with the growing number of online training providers to create high standards of training that will give therapists confidence in the course they choose, that it will equip them to embark on online therapy.
ACTO believes strongly that to practice as effectively and ethically as possible specific training in online therapy is vital. In the same way that any professional would seek training if broadening out their career and skills in a new area. All therapists have a foundation training that is robust, with ethics a core aspect running through it. As we develop our careers our professional bodies expect us to continuously train and keep open to new approaches and learning. And if we were to begin work in a new way would look for an appropriate course to support this.
For example, core therapy training is to equip the therapist to work with adults, and so we know that to branch out to work with children and young people, we would seek a course that helped us to develop the skills to work ethically in this specialism. In the same way, we would expect a doctor wanting to practice in a related, but a different part of medicine to undertake appropriate training.
ACTO believes that maintaining high standards of online training and practice supports both online therapists and the public. The legal and technological world is ever-changing and can be complicated to understand, potentially leading the untrained online therapist into difficulties. So ACTO has recently led in a pilot with CORE-net, gathering evidence for the use of CORE in online therapy, with a fascinating and very positive result, which will be used to take this pilot forward to the benefit of all ACTO members.
This gives a flavour of the range of work that ACTO is undertaking on behalf of online therapists, and those wishing to train. ACTO’s ethos is to be professional, ethical and inclusive, and the Board is always keen for ACTO members to join either the Board or the range of working groups that are doing so much of the valuable work of ACTO. For example, there are working groups for research and development, children and young people, the CORE project, and the development of the website.
ACTO is happy to engage in open and robust discussion and offer guidance and support to anyone interested in online working. ACTO’s members have a wealth of experience, skills and backgrounds that they are keen to share.