Despite being a wet and blustery evening on 20 November, a sizeable audience greeted Anne Stokes for her much anticipated talk about online counselling. Encouraging interaction and questions from the audience as she spoke, Anne explained that only as far back as the year 2000 she considered herself to be a `Luddite` in the world of computing. With online counselling still in its infancy, Anne ventured into this new world as a client, in the real hope that it would fail and prove right her own belief that it was unworkable, however she found it was `brilliant` and so was completely hooked.
It was explained that modern on-line counselling encompasses almost any form of Internet technology, including text, voice and video and a brief history of this was offered to the audience. It could be said that non-face to face counselling started with Sigmund Freud who often counselled by letter, but it was in the 1960’s that real development occurred with Eliza, a computer program which simulated a therapist. The USA, Australia and Israel moved forward with this work and in the early 1990’s some UK Universities produced hit and miss results in this field. In later years the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Universities and the NHS all gave respectability to this area of work.
Practical advantages attached to online counselling include the ability to work with people abroad, those who may have irregular working hours and people with transport problems or caring roles. Pitfalls might be seen as possible breaches in online security, which might compromise confidentiality and the need by the therapist to convey his or her understanding to the client through words alone. Anne stressed that she was not advocating the phasing out of face to face counselling or claiming online counselling is better or in fact worse but just that it is different.
Anne’s interesting and informative talk ended with a lively question and answer session, culminating in a warm round of applause following the vote of thanks given by TAP council member David Trott.
The next meeting of TAP is in the New Year, on Friday January 22nd, when Ian Stevenson will give a Talk entitled “Ticking the boxes – the context of 21st Century Management”. Venue : Taunton United Reformed Church, Paul Street, Taunton TA1 3PF @ 7.45 pm.