Blog Events

How to risk assess effectively working online

“Safeguarding needs to run through us like letters on a stick of rock; it is the bedrock of what we do,” Pippa Copleston

Free Workshop: Wednesday 10 April 2024 – 1.30 pm (1 hour)

Pippa Copleston is a practising counsellor with 25 years’ experience. Based in East Sussex, Pippa provides Online, In person and Blended Counselling, Psychotherapy and Clinical Supervision.

This April and October, Pippa is running two workshops specifically for ACTO members, to give practitioners valuable insight into risk and safeguarding issues whilst working online.

Below, Pippa explains why she passionately believes that safeguarding is so important, and provides detailed information about the free workshops.

Why are you passionate about the importance of safeguarding?

Since working online since 2016 it has become clear to me that there is little information or training available specific to therapists wishing to work online – apart from dedicated online courses. I have been fortunate enough to work as both a therapist and then as a Clinical Lead with safeguarding responsibility in an employed capacity for online providers. In these settings, I have worked using variety of delivery methods, including anonymous text based therapy, telephone counselling and other settings where safeguarding is a little trickier than for in-person therapists. During the pandemic, I used this experience to ensure that I was working as safely as I could remotely. During lockdown,  I was concerned by some attitudes and assumptions that I came across; that working online was no different to working in person, and so chose to take a General Certificate to increase my skillset and formalise the experience I had. I followed this by completing a Diploma in Online and Blended Supervision, and through doing this, recognised the need for Supervisors also to have good knowledge of safeguarding and risk when supervising online therapists. Safeguarding is relevant to all age groups, and therefore, all clients.

What is the objective of the workshop/webinar?

The aims is to share some ideas about good practice, stimulate thinking and reassure therapists that although this is a tricky area it’s still possible! I believe that we all continually learn from each other, and so I welcome additional ideas and knowledge from participants.

What are the intended outcomes of the session (what will participants learn/benefit from)?

The first session will look at:

  • How and why we risk assess
  • The “pros and cons” of using formal established assessment tools
  • How we risk assess effectively in our particular work setting, and to share useful resources.

There are “points to consider” throughout the presentation, just as a reminder to update and assess how we keep our clients and ourselves safe, particularly if working with clients not based in our country. The session’s aim is to encourage participants to further develop the processes we currently use and create up to date resources for clients and ourselves after the session with peers or in supervision.

What will be included in the following sessions?

The next session in October 2024 will be about effective safeguarding – i.e. what to do after risk has been identified, depending on our geographic location and that of the client, their age group using the resources that we have adopted. There are two sessions as one hour is not enough to cover both topics sufficiently.

I intend to run much more in depth training expanding on the topics covered in the two workshops, and am hopeful that this will be CPD of around 30 to 40 hours, presented live and using interactive activities. I hope that this may lead to peer groups being formed after the training is completed. I also intend to produce modular, recorded versions of training.

What are the main risks around not following safeguarding guidelines?

So many! Very briefly, obviously, client safety and /or that of others, including suicide or physical harm. There is also risk to us in terms of professional reputation and risking have a complaint raised or legal proceedings. More widely, we owe it to the profession to be robust and clear in how and why we keep our clients safe so that therapy, particularly remote provision, is recognised as safe and contained.

Are there any emerging new risks around safeguarding – and how do we approach these to reduce risk?

There are always emerging new risks, particularly as we are all using the internet. The increase of risk for harm and exploitation is especially evident the more that the disinhibition effect influences what people say and what people hear or trust. There is more risk of exploitation, and greater access to online therapy means that as therapists, we have exposure to far more clients and risk is not always obvious. Statistically, therefore, we are in a position where we may be exposed to potentially more risky presentations and disclosures from clients. This is where safeguarding training and updating this training, keeping abreast of new developments and being risk aware is, as it always has been, important.

In your view, what constitutes safeguarding?

Briefly, safeguarding needs to run through us like letters on a stick of rock; it is the bedrock of what we do. Good safeguarding is about being clear about our rationale for what we do, without be hyper vigilant. Safeguarding is not always clear cut, risk can be nuanced and often involves being brave and making a well-founded decision in the moment. Therefore, the guidelines we follow and the supervision that we have needs to reflect this to show that decisions and actions we take are well founded, not dismissive, negligent, hasty, or damaging to the client.

How I became an online therapist

Christine Laennec

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.

Christine Laennec

Cedartrees Counselling Glasgow

How I became an online therapist

Eleanor Carn

“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.” 


ACTO’s first online conference

2020 and 2021 have been years like no other. For online therapy this has seen enormous growth for our online profession. And so much to learn, so much to excite us.

Our Conference will be an exciting thought-provoking day with:

  • leading expert speakers, providing a series of presentations of key topics in the field,
  • interactive workshops and
  • time to network and relax together in the online therapeutic professional community.

This is a conference for all mental health practitioners working online, including therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other health care professionals.


Topics include:

  • Joining the Dots between the Past and the Present
  • Why do we do what we do do?” What does the research tell us?
  • “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” ACTO: driving up standards in online therapy
  • Super Vision: the oversight keeping us on the straight and narrow in the digital space
  • The Voice within the Written Word. Text Based Therapy with CYP
  • Lessons from Covid, the way forward
  • Online supervision


There will be an exciting selection of workshops to choose from during the afternoon. You will be able to select two workshops from a large selection.  Workshops will include Working internationallyWorking with Children and Adolescents, Inclusivity, Diversity and Social Justice, but there will also be many more to choose from.

ACTO board messages Announcements Blog

Looking for an exciting new opportunity?

Looking for an exciting new opportunity?

The world of online counselling and psychotherapy is changing – and you can help to shape it by joining our team of directors on the ACTO Board

ACTO is always on the look-out for talent and energy to join the Board of Directors. In recent months, our profession has seen significant changes with the huge growth in the practice of online psychotherapy and counselling. We are keen to support that development by broadening our team with new directors.

There are opportunities for members to join our Board as ‘Directors without portfolio’; however we are particularly in need of expertise in the following areas:-

A Director of Training – to help us:

  • improve our training standards;
  • support our Training Organisations;
  • encourage other online training organisations to join the ACTO family.

A Director for Inclusivity/Diversity, to:

  • help us decide what this director should be called!
  • champion issues of inclusion and diversity within ACTO;
  • disseminate awareness and understanding of inclusion and diversity in online work.

An International Director (or deputy)

  • this is a passion of our Chair – but he hasn’t sufficient time to manage it fully:
  • to bring the long-awaited International Directory to fruition, to develop and manage it;
  • to link in with the international organisations devoted to online work;
  • to develop a network of ACTO ‘chapters’ around the world.

If you are interested, please contact the Chair of ACTO at: for an informal chat.

Adrian M Rhodes

Chair, ACTO


It’s time to rethink the norms and face the new realities

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

Chair, ACTO


Can online therapy mitigate coronavirus?

There’s no getting away from the news that is dominating the press at the moment. We are experiencing a global pandemic of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), an illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s widespread and it’s a public health crisis.

The UK government has implemented special measures in an attempt to contain and mitigate the virus. Public Health England is advising health professionals, businesses, schools and other organisations to protect yourself and others against the spread of Coronavirus. Working arrangements might have to change.

This level of extreme disruption, challenges and disaster we are faced with will increase demand for the services provided by therapy and coaching professionals and also the way in which therapy is delivered. Online Therapy could be the answer for many health professionals due to its low risk in terms of spreading disease. But are you equipped to carry out your therapy business online?

Having a resilience and disaster recovery plan in place means business can continue even when work practices change. But not many small businesses already have one of those in place. The government has published free downloadable guidance on business continuity planning.

Private Practice Hub is a UK leading business information and advice website designed to help small business owners, therapists and coaches run a business.

In addition to this resource we also bring you the Online Therapy Hub website which is specifically for those already working online or contemplating this way of working. We offer tips and resources to point you in the right direction and aim to help you develop your online presence, then your online practice and, perhaps ultimately, the way you work therapeutically online.

We can help you with the tools you need to coordinate all you do and operate efficiently as an online therapist wherever you might be working. From understanding and engaging potential clients, marketing yourself in a digital world and making sure you have sufficient security measures and software in place to protect clients confidentiality, data and privacy.

Membership is absolutely free with access to a variety of articles and resources ranging from the very basics to the more advanced including business plans, marketing strategies, financial advice, administration, support on professional issues and exclusive special offers. Join here today.

We’re here to support you in maintaining the effectiveness of your professional therapy or coaching activity wherever you might be working. Get in touch today to find out more


COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Advice from ACTO for CLIENTS and NON-ACTO THERAPISTS

Please look here for the latest guidance


Anne Stokes on how she became an online counsellor

Our new patron Anne Stokes was one of the first to provide online counselling training in the UK. We asked her to share with us how she became an online counsellor.

How were you introduced to online counselling?

Anne Stokes

Just over 20 years ago, a good friend of mine, who I had trained with as a counsellor in the mid-80s, talked to several of us about a project she was currently involved with. A group of counsellors had got together and were looking at the possibilities of using the internet to work with clients. They wanted to set up a pilot scheme in which they would each work with a client and then talk together about what had happened – what worked and what didn’t.

They were therefore in need of ‘clients’. I volunteered to be a client, obviously not for my friend, but for one of the other members of the group who I didn’t know. In those days, the idea was to counsel through the medium of email exchanges. I think that because no one was quite sure how that would go, they were looking to use counsellors as clients because most of us would have supervisors and probably our own therapists to support us if things went badly wrong.

My counsellor sent me a contract and we began to work together, exchanging emails roughly once a week. I used a real issue as I have never been a big fan of role-plays as I think that it is nigh on impossible to truly pretend to have a problem which is made up, without a bit of one’s self creeping in unbidden and probably out of awareness. This has the potential to turn the whole thing into a disaster!

We exchanged a number of emails – I can’t actually remember how many now – and included various creative ways of working. I seem to recall the use of images, metaphors, drawings and a poem.

After we had ended, I gave my counsellor feedback on how I had found the experience. Though I was not involved with this part, I know that the group then looked at their combined learning and from there, what would be necessary to train counsellors to work online.


Did you like the idea straight away?

No, I most certainly did not! In those days I was a total luddite and thought the whole idea was completely bonkers. How on earth could a relationship be formed online, without ever meeting the other person? If that was so, then therapy couldn’t possibly be successful since the relationship is fundamental to the process. Basically, I volunteered to prove that this thing would not work.

When my colleagues (and some of my counselling students) at the University of Bristol knew that I was going to be part of this pilot, they fell about laughing as I was well known for having as little to do with technology as possible.

How I had to eat my words L . Not only did I form a sound and trusting relationship with my counsellor, but I discovered that she was well able to convey the core conditions throughout our email exchanges. I chose to concentrate on an issue which had been around for years and which I had looked at on and off within my face-to-face therapy without anything much changing.

Perhaps it was ‘good timing’ in my life, perhaps it was to do with the skill of my counsellor, perhaps it was because my expectations were so low, whatever…… it unblocked the issue and it was possible to make changes in my life and in a particular relationship, as well as gaining insight into to the underlying blocks. I could no longer say rather sniffily that e-counselling wouldn’t ever work and that it was a ridiculous notion.

The immediate consequence was that I decided that I would have to train as an online counsellor as the pilot group had then set up a training scheme. You can see what a leap I made – total sceptic to total convert in a few months. What a revolution and what an effect it had on my subsequent years as a therapist, trainer, supervisor and writer.

Along the way, I have been able to enjoy interactions and relationships with colleagues who I have met online. With a few people, these have turned into friendships sustained both online and face to face.

One bizarre occurrence was meeting someone face-to-face after a couple of years training together and then developing our close friendship online. We almost didn’t know how to conduct ourselves in person so to speak, until she asked why we were so stilted with each other when we could talk so easily online. As so often happens, this naming of what was happening broke the issue and we laughed at ourselves. We still know each other 18 years later.

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