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Coronavirus welfare advice: Making the most of online counselling

The University Counselling Service is currently offering all its counselling online. Here we provide a few tips for students looking to make the most out of their remote sessions.

It is possible to form solid, personal connections online - even with a counsellor you’re meeting for the first time; and you can get just as much done as when working face-to-face.

Based on our experience of supporting students throughout the pandemic, we’d like to offer the following advice:

1. Ask yourself what you want from counselling

Before you start, it’s important for you to reflect on what you really need and want from counselling now. If you were seeing a counsellor previously, ask yourself whether it feels right to continue. Don’t feel you have to—you may not have the mental bandwidth right now.

If you haven’t had counselling before, and feel uneasy about meeting on-line, please give it a try. You may be surprised at how straightforward it feels, and how helpful it is. 

2. Take it seriously

Counselling works best when it is treated as a serious professional meeting, with some degree of formally. Joining a video call from bed, wearing your pyjamas, or in a busy room won’t make for a productive session.

To make the most of your counselling, it is helpful if you allow at least 15 minutes to gather your thoughts ahead of the session, and a similar time to reflect and digest afterward. (In normal times, travelling to and from the counselling service creates a natural opportunity for this.)

3. Get your set-up right

Your physical set-up will make a big difference.

To start with, make sure you have a good internet connection, and find somewhere private to sit where you can relax and communicate freely.

We’d also appreciate you taking time think in advance about where you’d like to sit and how to position your laptop or phone so that we can see you properly.

It is hard to make a strong connection if we can’t see the whole of your face or you are moving around a lot. Ensuring we can see you properly will go a long way to making the session feel like a normal human-to-human encounter. (If you’ve ever attempted to empathise with a forehead or a chin, you’ll understand!)

4. Tell us if you’d like alternatives

Let us know if you have concerns about privacy and confidentiality. We believe video calls are the best substitute for face-to-face meeting, but if necessary we can communicate with you in other ways. For example, it can work well if you type your side of the conversation and the counsellor responds by speaking.

With a little care and thought, we believe that together we can make on-line counselling a positive and productive experience. If you have experienced online counselling and would like to offer any ideas or feedback please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Counselling Service.

Meanwhile, we want to extend a warm welcome any students who would like an appointment. We are very much open for business and ready to help!

For a range of additional supportive resources, go to the Counselling Service webpages, or visit the coronavirus student advice page for more general information about the impact of coronavirus.