2.3 Assessing counsellors’ competence for online working
As Fiona Ballantine-Dykes suggested in her welcome message, a critical ethical requirement for all counsellors who are moving to working online with clients is to assess their competence to do so: in other words, are you able to work safely and effectively with clients online? It is important to discuss this with your supervisor.
Activity 6 explores this further.
Activity 6: Working online with clients
Listen to this extract of a conversation between online counselling specialist Sarah Worley James and Sally Brown, editor of BACP magazine Therapy Today, as they discuss how counsellors should decide about working online with clients.
Sally argues that counsellors and psychotherapists should – in the emergency context of coronavirus – not be discouraged from working online with existing clients if those counsellors fall into which of the following categories?
The counsellor is already working with the client.
The counsellor is struggling financially due to coronavirus.
The counsellor is being told by supervisors that this is what they need to do.
The counsellor is experienced.
The counsellor does not want to abandon clients in a time of national emergency.
The counsellor has an established therapy relationship with the client.
The correct answers are a, d and f.
Abandoning clients is of course ethically wrong (although risk related to abandoning clients must be balanced with the potential risk related to working in a new way) – but this was not mentioned by Sally in this extract. The negative financial impact of coronavirus on counsellors and psychotherapists, as well as counselling organisations, is unknown at the time of publication (April 2020), but it is likely to be huge. However, ethically the decision to work online at this time must be driven by the client’s needs, rather than those of the counsellor or organisation.
What does Sarah suggest that anyone moving their work with clients online needs to consider?
‘Do I have password-protected Wi-Fi?’
‘What is my level of competence?’
‘Do I have a private space at home that I can work in?’
‘How familiar am I with technology?’
‘What is my experience level?’
‘How can I securely process online payments?’
‘Will my online practice meet ethical requirements?’
The correct answers are b, d, e and g.
The practical aspects of providing counselling online are of course important, but Sarah suggests that the core factors that should drive any decision about engaging in online counselling are ethics and competence.