Working Online and Digital Counselling and Psychotherapy

“Working Online” and “Digital Counselling and Psychotherapy”

06 June 2016    Kate Dunn

Counsellors and psychotherapists are sometimes a little confused by what is meant by the phrase “working online”. Below you will find a chart which can help distinguish between two activities – delivering therapy online and using digital communication in the course of your work in counselling and psychotherapy.  If you are a counsellor or psychotherapist delivering face-to-face therapy in a ‘traditional’ consulting room, you are still likely to be using technology quite frequently within your practice.  Are you aware of all the implications?

How are you using the technology?

Who does this include?

How and when do you meet your clients?




Working Online










Those delivering therapy digitally and online.

This means using an online consulting room and meeting only in cyberspace, not in the same physical space.

The telephone was the first “working online” tool used synchronously.


Synchronously (meaning counsellor and client are online at the same time)


Live Chat or Instant messaging  (IM)

Often known as IRC (Internet Relay Chat)


Synchronously (meaning counsellor and client are online at the same time)


Video-conferencing using a webcam, where you can see and hear the other person. (Sometimes people choose to use audio only.)


Asynchronously (meaning counsellor and client do not need to be online at the same time)


Email or similar system that means that the other person receiving the information can read the message at a different time from when it is sent



Using digital communication as a therapist



This is likely to involve every single counsellor and psychotherapist in 2016 at some level and refers to the impact of our use of information technology on all areas of our practice, the counselling room itself and our therapeutic and other working relationships.

For example:

  • Sending emails  
  • using mobile phones for texting or calling clients
  • sharing online resources (perhaps using images and sound)
  • engaging in social media 
  • working with digital calendars and/or appointment systems

These are all ways in which you might be engaging with digital resources within the consulting room. Are you aware of the dangers as well as the benefits of using these resources? 


See Chapter 5 of Psychotherapy 2.0: Where Psychotherapy and Technology Meet (Karnac 2014) (ed Philippa Weitz) written by Martin Pollecoff and Alexandra Chalfont for some cautionary tales and useful advice in this area.