During your time training for a position as a Community Service Worker (CSW), you have the opportunity to learn not only about psychology, sociology, and related subjects but also a set of computer and office skills necessary for working in the field.

These two disparate skillsets come together in the form of online counselling services. Though not as popular as traditional face-to-face models of counselling, interest in these services has steadily increased over the last few years.

The social distancing required to fight COVID-19 has garnered renewed interest in online counselling models as the possibility of face-to-face meetings drifts further away. Whether obligatory or optional, knowing how to properly provide counselling services online will be useful during a CSW career. Read on for an introduction.

Online Counselling Explained for Students in Community Service Programs

The burgeoning popularity of online counselling services has hit the mainstream in the last few years. As the stigma around counselling dissipates, it’s commonplace to hear discussions about or see advertisements for these services.

Referred to variously as e-counselling, tele-counselling, distance counselling, or online counselling, the basic premise of these services is straightforward: counselling services provided to clients in the comfort of their own homes using the internet.

Though most of these services are provided through video-calling software, it’s possible to use a variety of different mediums, like texting, emailing, and voice messaging. Counsellors who engage with clients online can provide services through a third-party platform such as the applications TalkSpace or BetterHealth, through their clinic or institution, or directly as independent contractors. Speak with other graduates of CSW career colleges about what platforms they’re using to reach online counselling clients.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Counselling

Online services are one of the fastest-growing areas of counselling, with increasing interest from both clients and counsellors. The internet has made many services simpler and more efficient, and counselling isn’t immune to this streamlining.

There are many benefits to conducting counselling online. Primarily, it makes these services available to those with limited mobility and those that are in remote or under-serviced areas, as well as those who simply need more flexibility and convenience. It also necessitates lower overhead costs, which typically results in lower costs per session.

Despite the many benefits, there are also drawbacks to online counselling services when compared to the traditional face-to-face model. The main disadvantage is that there will be a narrower pool of clients for these services, as they’re not suited to everyone’s needs and desires. After completing CSW career college programs, discuss with your clients if online counselling is right for them. Other drawbacks are the difficulties of reading behavioural cues and micro-expressions and potential technological difficulties.

How to Best Prepare for E-Counselling

Because of the subtle differences between online and face-to-face counselling, it’s important that you’re well-prepared before you begin to provide these services. Understanding the nuances of distance counselling and working around its disadvantages will ensure that your clients will receive the best services possible after community service programs.

Make sure you’re sufficiently prepared before starting to provide e-counselling services

Make sure you’re sufficiently prepared before starting to provide e-counselling services

The first thing to be aware of is that your ability to provide distance counselling depends on where you’re licensed, and where the client resides. Though clients all over the world are accessible to you through the internet, you will only be able to counsel clients that are in the province or territory you’re licensed in.

Also, though technology has advanced a lot over the past few decades, technological mishaps are still relatively common. Ensure you have a reliable computer and internet connection and have a back-up plan in mind if you encounter tech issues. The last thing to be mindful of is the idea of data privacy. It’s important to use proper encryption on your communications with clients to protect the security of their personal data.

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