More and more people are turning to email counselling as it offers a more accessible way of meeting a counsellor without having to commit to an agreed session time in the middle of a working day.
Email counselling is not new but it’s not nearly as well known as in-person and video counselling. There is no depiction of it on movies and TV (I mean, how could you even show email counselling in a film anyway?).
I am here to shout from the rooftops that email counselling is just as effective and has so many added benefits. I wrote more about why people choose email counselling in my blog here.
Popularity for email counselling is surging but there’s a lack of counsellors trained to offer it.
I want to help more people (clients and counsellors alike) learn more about what email counselling is and how it works so I wrote this blog to help explain.
Firstly, what actually is email counselling?
Email counselling is a type of counselling where you, the client, exchange secure confidential therapeutic emails with a qualified counsellor.
Unlike in-person, video, or phone sessions, email counselling is all text-based, therefore we will not see each other’s faces or hear each other's voices.
This can be very liberating for many people.
Maybe you’ve never had counselling before and are very anxious to meet me, yet you don’t feel ready to talk. Writing your feelings down might feel easier.
Does hiding your face and voice feel safer and easier for you?
How does email counselling work?
Once a week you write an email to me, and I write back. This exchange of confidential emails gives you the opportunity to explore with a qualified counsellor, through written words, how you are feeling.
We each send a maximum of 500 words once a week. I spend the same time writing to you as I would if we were meeting for a fifty-minute session, and I encourage you to do the same.
We agree to respond to each other by a certain time and day of the week, so you’ll always know when to expect to hear from me next. As the time delay is an important therapeutic difference with email counselling, I take 2 working days to reflect, process and draft my reply. This deferral allows time for me to fully deliberate on your thoughts and words as you wait for my reply.
Due to our not meeting in ‘real time’, email counselling gives you more time to think and respond as you write at a time that works for you.
Do I need to meet a counsellor on video call before starting email counselling?
Not at all.
There could be many reasons why you have chosen email counselling and my insisting that you have a video call or phone call before starting could interfere with these reasons. For example, your Internet signal might not be strong enough, you may be too anxious to speak, or you might not want me to know what you look like. I respect all of this and instead start with an introductory email session.
However, if you do want to meet me on video call first that is absolutely fine too. Just choose the video call option when you book your introductory session here.
Do you send me any info before starting email counselling?
When you make an enquiry to book an introductory email session, I will send you info about how email counselling works, including my counselling contract, which details all the 'rules' around word limit, cancellations, payment, etc. This helps us to agree the boundaries, so you know what to expect from me as your counsellor.
How will I know what to write in my first email to you?
In my counselling practice the first email is an introductory email exchange. Once we have set up the practicalities in terms of the paperwork and fees, I will send you the following pointers on what I encourage you to write about in your first email.
· Have you had counselling before? If so, was your experience helpful/unhelpful?
· What made you choose email counselling?
· What are the main issues you would like to work on?
This guidance helps you to feel ready to start writing and think about what you would like to share with me. Your responses also help give me a picture of who you are and what you are looking for in email counselling with me. I will then take time to read your email and write a reply to you.
This experience of sending your first email and receiving my reply helps you to get a taster of what email counselling might be like, and will help you decide if you would like to start a series of email sessions. It also gives me an opportunity to check that the type of support you are looking for and the issues you want to explore are things that match what I have training/experience of as a counsellor.
Before setting up an introductory email session it’s a good idea to have a look at my website to read more about my counselling approach and experience.
Are emails private?
In all my counselling sessions I take privacy very seriously. Email counselling is no different.
I want to help you feel able to trust the process so that you can write about whatever you need. For email counselling I use a secure and encrypted email service called ProtonMail. For the level of privacy to work effectively it is essential that you also use a ProtonMail address. This is free and it’s pretty easy to set up an account. I will send you details to help you do this.
It is also important that you find a time and place to write your emails which is confidential, and where you will not be disturbed. This will help you get the most out of your sessions. For example, just as you wouldn’t have a counselling session in a public cafe, we agree not to write our emails to each other in such places.
I am not sure how I want to meet; can I have a mix of email counselling and video calls?
You can choose to have all your sessions by email or to have a mix of ways of meeting. I work with lots of people who start with a couple of video call counselling sessions and then switch to email sessions or vice versa.
I have also worked with many clients who gave email counselling a go after long periods of meeting by video call. I often notice how freed up many people can seem as they are often less embarrassed and more able to say what they really want to say by email. If you think about it, it makes sense, as in everyday life people often find it easier to text or email a friend if they need to say something that is difficult to say out loud.
If you are finding it difficult to bring up an embarrassing topic in counselling, you might find it helpful switching to email sessions to see if that helps. I like to give my clients this option.
I am interested in giving email counselling a go.
What is the next step?
All you need to do is book a slot on my online calendar HERE and I will get back to you to guide you through getting started and how/when to send your first email.
I look forward to hearing from you when you are ready.