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My experience of online counselling

With social distancing measures in place, face-to-face counselling and psychotherapy has had to stop for the time being. Jacob, 22, shares his experience of online counselling.

Due to the current pandemic a lot of things in my life have changed. I have been having counselling weekly for the past few years and I was so worried about what would happen in lockdown - would it even continue? How will it work? What if my parents hear me? There were so many thoughts rushing through my mind.

Counselling has been a massive part of my recovery, so the fear of losing it impacted heavily on my anxiety. I went back to having full-blown panic attacks, not being able to sleep at night and not even being able to concentrate on TV and coursework.

My first virtual session was nerve-wracking. I sat at my computer waiting for my counsellor to let me into the group chat. I was shaking, restless and exhausted from barely sleeping. When the time came for our appointment he let me into the group chat, and it was odd to be honest. My counsellor kept it as normal as possible, asking me the usual questions about how I was doing. It was just different because we spoke through a computer screen instead of face to face, which was just strange. 

My first virtual session was nerve-wracking.

It’s taken me time to get used to, but I have learnt some things along the way that have made it easier, such as:

  • Wear headphones - This is a great idea because that way there is more privacy, making sure those in the house can’t hear what is spoken about within the session.
  • Tell others what you're doing (if you can) – This helps to make sure that no one enters the room midway through the session. I stick a notice on the door and a list of all my counselling dates and times on the fridge. Maybe if you don’t wish to tell your parents about your sessions, say you just need time to do school work.
  • Have a pen and paper near you - I find doodling helps reduce anxiety. I doodle when I’m on the phone too.
  • Know that your counsellor only wants to help you - Be honest with them if virtual video counselling just isn’t working for you. They may have ideas for other ways you could continue, such as over email or phone.
  • If there is something troubling you that you are struggling to say out loud out of fear of others hearing, know that you aren’t alone. Maybe ask your counsellor if you could email them before the next session to explain what you would like to talk about and that you are worried about others hearing. It is also perfectly okay to come back to it later on when you are back to face-to-face sessions.

Most importantly, just know that it is okay to be struggling more than usual right now. You aren’t alone. This is only temporary and if you have the opportunity to do virtual counselling, I think it’s worth giving a try – you are always free to change your mind if it’s not for you. If you do give it a try, I hope that virtual counselling is a positive experience for you and these tips help.

If you have the opportunity to do virtual counselling, I think it’s worth giving a try – you are always free to change your mind if it’s not for you.

Author: Jacob, 22

If you are struggling with your mental health, or are worried about somebody else who is, take a look at our find help page for information, tips and suggestions of where you can get help.

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