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Keep calm – online counselling is at your hand

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With an increasing amount of media attention on the spread of COVID -19 (coronavirus) there are some valid questions that counsellors are asking themselves: How does coronavirus that WHO (World Health Organisation) now considers a pandemic, affect our clients and ourselves? Is switching to other forms of counselling as online or telephone counselling our ethical responsibility and a good option at times like this?

If we decide to suspend, what I call ‘in the room’ therapy contact, online or telephone counselling might be an alternative way for clients to still be able to benefit of receiving counselling. As therapists and counsellors we need to be competent and trained to deliver therapy via these two methods and delivering therapy online or via telephone must be suited to the needs of our clients. Counsellors`s ethical duty is to prevent harm to clients, either physical or emotional. In times like this, with the uncertainty at the heart of this crisis, it is important for counsellors to stay calm and make right decisions. Giving an option to have online counselling instead of ‘in the room’ therapy might be a good way forward. Online counselling is a good medium in these circumstances as some people are afraid to leave their house for fear of catching the virus or they are already quarantined. Online counselling is a convenient and confidential platform that can enable people a safe space to share their concerns and fears from their own home.

Every day we get news on the numbers of people infected and number of deaths. So, normally people feel increasingly anxious as the coronavirus spreads in their environment. While the media focuses mainly on the impact on people’s physical health and what people can do to prevent spreading the disease, fear and anxiety about the virus can also have an impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. People are more irritated, tense and edgy than usual. Furthermore, continuous change in protocol and routine, such as working from home, can increase people’s stress levels. Fear and uncertainty over prolonged periods of time add to the strain already felt by those facing work or relationship problems, and threats around the economical situation and job losses or pay cuts are an added risk for developing mental health difficulties. There is potential for panic attacks, claustrophobia, depressions, loneliness, stress, hopelessness and even PTSD.

How to manage coronavirus anxiety

Having ways to manage your anxiety around the virus will make the next weeks and months more manageable. Here are just some of the steps that might help people feel a bit more in control of their situation and, hopefully less fearful:

  1. Staying informed although limiting how much time you spend on social media and/or listening, reading or watching news,
  2. Questioning whether the information that you are given is scaring you rather than providing a balanced and helpful information on statistics and ways to keep safe,
  3. Not ignoring your own fears and anxieties, and validating them – it is very natural to feel scared when facing uncertainty or unknown threat,
  4. Speaking about your fears and exploring them eases the anxiety and helps oneself feel less lonely,
  5. Reaching out if you feel a need for that extra help – a counsellor can help ‘catch’ fearful thoughts and help clients focus on what is important now and advice on self-soothing skills,
  6. Looking after your physical health by eating well, sleeping enough and exercising.

Online or telephone counselling can help

Talking to a counsellor ‘in the room’, online or via telephone may also help with:

  • Constant worrying about health,
  • Feeling low and hopeless,
  • Fearing social situations,
  • Feeling isolated and/or lonely,
  • Finding it difficult to balance work, life commitments and relationships,
  • Sleeping disturbances,
  • Depression,
  • Anxiety,
  • Burnout.

These are indeed uncertain and challenging times which are inevitably affecting us all in many different ways. It is important to know that you are not alone and that there are places and people to turn to for support if needed.

At this time it might be important to adapt our ways of thinking and working to new possibilities that exist and make online counselling a reliable alternative to ‘in the room’ therapy.