4.2 Practical considerations
There are some important things that counsellors need to consider when using videoconferencing software:
- Client considerations: Do you have the client’s email address (for sending the meeting invite) and phone number (in case the technology fails)? Have you checked that the client has private space that feels safe and is free of interruptions? This will be a really new thing for clients to have to consider so it is worth exploring what this feels like. Have you sent the client all the information they need to join the online session? The further resources section has an example of a client information sheet for using Zoom in online counselling.
- Space for offering online services: In the best-case scenario, the space where you engage in video-based counselling is similar to the one where you offer face-to-face counselling. This means potentially removing any clues to your personal life that might be seen in the background: for example, are any pictures of family members visible? It means considering the extent to which you can ensure quiet and privacy versus noise and interruption from others, such as children who may be home due to school closures. You may want to consider steps such as putting a sign on the door to your counselling space when you are working with clients.
- Equipment: You need to test both your camera and sound system (microphone/speakers), and ideally you should do this before each session. Headsets provide additional privacy because they mean that the client’s words cannot be overheard. Experiment with the camera’s placement to make sure that you are looking straight into the camera – you don’t want the client to be looking up at you or at your ear. Think also about your distance from the camera: you don’t want to be too close, but you don’t want to be so far away that your facial expressions are hard to read. Some videoconferencing software allows you to alter your image in flattering or strange ways – these are probably not recommended!
- Contingency planning: At the outset you need to agree with your client what you will do if there are technology issues: sound or video freezing, or getting lost at either end. This might mean agreeing to go to phones.