Using Zoom/Skype Counselling

Can good counselling be achieved using Zoom & Skype “webcam” video from the privacy and safety of your home & office?

Answer: Yes! 🎉

For some, maybe video counselling seemed inferior to face-to-face services, yet when couples (using two video devices – see further down) and established groups (one device each) access Counsellor Dean Richardson MNCS(Accred/Reg)’s experienced service for LGBT/QIA+ relationships using Zoom or Skype they find they can make effective, relationship-transforming behaviour even whilst sitting hundreds of miles away from their therapist. Afterall, some have been making long-distance relationships work for years, and even those who live together make good use of webcam counselling.

Dean is an English counsellor, resident in the south of Great Britain (Hampshire) and is now into his 22nd year of counselling practice and 14th year of working specifically online with Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp Video, Facebook Chat, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and other services.

How Video Counselling Works.

Instead of travelling to your counsellor’s office for weekly sessions you call in from your home or office using your broadband Internet or other data plan service. Your device will be a video/microphone enable device (such as a smartphone, tablet, PC, Mac or Chromebook) for your weekly 50 or 90 minute session with your therapist.

Video counselling sessions are of the same format as when meeting face-to-face. It remains conversation-based (sometime using shared apps like whiteboard or Genogram diagram planning). Also, because you’ll be in your home or office you’ll take some of the responsibilities usually handled by the counsellor (privacy, safety, personal needs such as tissues, water etc).

When considering LGBT/QIA+ Counselling during self-isolation, regional lockdown or simply because it’s downright convenient, video counselling for relationships would be the better choice or your and your partner (and your partner’s partner(s))… together.

Zoom Counselling for LGBT Couples
Skype Video Counselling for Couples
Google Meet Logo
WhatsApp Video

LGBT/QIA+ Couple & Group Counselling via video is available on Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp & Google Meet.
Other video conferencing services may be available (please get in contact to discuss).
Unfortunately, Apple-Exclusive Platform Apps (Facetime etc) are not supported.

One Video Device Per Partner 

Ideal for Counselling via Video Link: Dean Richardson has been practising couple counselling via video conferencing (Skype, Zoom etc) for over 13 years. He originally focussed upon Long Distance Couple Relationships (i.e. each partner used a separate device).

When 2019’s pandemic occurred, Dean discovered a useful phenomenon for couples: partnerships living together also benefited from using separate devices (eg one each, sitting in different rooms); couples offered the feedback that it lent them a useful sense of “we’re not at home.” This approach empowered relationships in counselling to talk about subjects that couldn’t normally be discussed “at home”. Difficult subjects became more manageable due using a little bit of physical separation and one video device per partner.

Polyamorous Groups (and long-distance couple relationships) have the advantage – living in separately locations they’ve known the benefits of one-device-per-partner for a long time.

With most of us having a Smartphone nowadays (yes, even a Smartphone is sufficient to connect with your remote counsellor), one device per partner is easily achievable. So, as you consider entering a counselling engagement with Dean for Zoom/Skype Relationship Counselling, consider the following Preparations for Video Counselling

 

Zoom Skype Counselling for Couples

Video Counselling Preparation...

Preparations for Individuals, Couples & Groups.

  • Remember that counselling sessions are (still) a professional engagement. Even though you're at home with easy access to your fridge, comfy pyjamas and footstool, aim to behave as if you would be meeting your counsellor in his office.
  • Have your video device prepared well in advance with the software installed that you and Dean have agreed upon first contact (whilst Zoom or Skype is preferred, Dean may also use WhatsApp, Facebook and others - provided there's a prior conversation before the session). Ensure that your Operating System has all updates installed beforehand (some upgrades can take a long time) and that your Apps have the most recent security updates.
  • Use a headset/microphone combination (such as those supplied with your Smartphone, or computer). Not only helpful for your privacy, Skype and Zoom work significantly better by avoiding echo, disturbing feedback or blocking the audio for several seconds whilst the software filters out your own audio being sent back from your caller's device.
Dean Richardson: Skype/Zoom Counsellor

  • Use a table or stand if using a tablet or Smartphone (rather than holding the device for 50/90 minutes). Keeping the device held not only relieves your hands and keeps the camera steady, it also helps prevent feelings of sea-sickness in the observer when you're moving your camera.
  • Try to place your camera at eye level so that you're looking at your device on the horizontal. This ensures that you're not looking down or up at your counsellor (which can feel a little disturbing).
  • Ensure that your face is lit. This may mean you sitting facing a light-source (the window, a lamp etc). Otherwise you'll appear in shadow and your counsellor will not be able to see your face.
  • You will need a room that's private and away from others' earshot. If this is not possible, perhaps others in your house might leave for an hour).
  • Ensure that your environment is quiet - Skype & Zoom (etc) use technology that can "take over" the audio channel when you speak (or when there is sound in your room). If your room is noisy you may find that the counsellor's voice becomes cut-off or interrupted.
  • Make sure you won't be disturbed: tell others in your house not to come into your room. Maybe put a note on your room's door - or your house's front door - saying "Do Not Disturb" so that others are reminded before they enter your room and/or your doorbell isn't rung. It's quite disturbing when you're halfway discussing something private or sensitive only to have someone burst into your room (be it a child needing your attention or another adult).
  • Be aware of your environment: think about things such as lighting where the window is, how far away you are from the microphone and camera, is there other things on your device's screen that might distract you, are your messaging apps closed, are all bandwidth sucking apps closed (eg Dropbox, Google Drive etc - or someone in your location streaming video).
Important: Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac, Macbook) running Apple-exclusive software (Facetime etc) cannot be used with this service.

Preparations for Couples & Groups.

  • Prepare to use one video device per person rather than one device for two or more of you.
  • Couples and groups have commented that whilst attending a video counselling session it can feel helpfully "we're not at home" to be physically separated whilst speaking with one's partner(s) via video. This can assist the relationship in discussing matters together that would not normally be discussed "at home".
  • In addition to multiple devices, I recommend you being in separate rooms from each other (eg living room / kitchen). Whilst this is not compulsory, if your voice can be picked up by your partner's microphone this will introduce audio echo; you will have to mute your microphone when you're not speaking.
  • When calling from the same location it may seem illogical to use two devices. Note the illustration for Couple Counselling: when working face-to-face with couples, both partners are angled away from the counsellor and more towards each other. This promotes the couple focussing upon their relationship (holding conversations, listening to each other etc) and the counsellor is able to observe and interveneSuch positioning also helps promote the concept of the counsellor being a therapeutic consultant rather than someone the couple sit in front of (like a cinema audience might) attending to him delivering a lecture upon the couple's relationship.
  • When working with groups of 3 or more if people speak over each other we may talk about how we creatively manage each person having their voice heard (when they want it to be) - such as using a virtual "talking stick".
Image showing how couples sit during counselling

  • Of course, there are always alternative approaches to using one-device-per-person or sitting in separate rooms/locations. We can always set aside some time for this. As long as the main aims are catered for such as (a) the couple or group will be talking with each other during the session, (b) the counsellor is able to see and hear all partners throughout the session, and (c) the counsellor is available for consultation, feedback and intervention (rather than being positioned as the-expert-in-the-session-with-all-the-answers).
  • During a counselling session, if one-or-more of you intentionally disconnects the session will be brought to a close depending on who remains. Think of it like this: Relationship Counselling is therapy for a relationship (duh 🤣), and when a partner disconnects we might wonder if the relationship has effectively left the therapy session. Counselling can resume at the next scheduled session should all contracted partners attend.
  • If one or more of you unintentionally disconnects during the session, we will try to re-establish the connection as best we can, but we won't continue the session in a partner's absence.
  • If one or more of you leaves Relationship Counselling entirely: I will work with the remaining partner(s) for a handful of sessions to bring our contracted work to a close. We won't switch to another contract (individual for couples, or couples/individual for groups). You are welcome to engage with an alternative counsellor for your needs.
  • Sessions may be arranged for one partner alone (in the case of couple counselling) or for a subset of the group if we have (a) previously discussed that this meets with everyone's approval and (b) the attending partner(s) and counsellor update the absent partner(s) about what was discussed in their absence. Such situations might be if one or more partner(s) is/are unable to attend the occasional session.

13 years Real Video Experience

You may have noticed that as the 2019 national pandemic grew a significant number of counsellors began adding “video counselling” to their portfolio. Considering that video counselling is not part of a counsellor’s standard training I’d ask you: how many of them, do you think, have more than a few months’ (or weeks?!) actual experience? 🤔.

Commencing formal diploma training in counselling from 1999, Dean has been working as an Online/Video Counsellor with Skype, Zoom etc since 2007 through taking additional professional training (see side image of his original iCounsellor.co.uk Internet Domain Registration – still functional). This incorporated his previous two decades’ of professional experience in Information Technology (aka working within IBM, Microsoft, Borland, local software development Ltd companies).

Dean’s decades of combined-experience in IT and Psychotherapy is rarely seen in other counsellors.

Whilst some other counsellors may be hurrying to transition their practice to video, you may feel confident with Dean Richardson’s considerable experience to help manage your online video therapy.

(Click Whois Record image for greater detail).

 

iCounsellor.co.uk Domain Name Registration
OnlineCounsellors.co.uk Course Completed

OnlineCounsellors.co.uk Internet Counselling training completed May 2007

Beginning Video Counselling Together

  1. You’ll send your session fee beforehand (such as using your Banking App to make a BACS transfer or paying by card/PayPal using my Online Card Payment Service).
  2. During our first session we’ll allow some time to get our devices working at their best.
  3. You sign in to your private Zoom meeting room, or private Skype group. 
  4. Dean joins the session at the start time.
  5. The topic to focus upon begins.

Prior to this per-session format, you will have arranged to meet with Dean at an agreed day and time. You’ll have sent in your £30 deposit to confirm you wish to meet for the first time. The first session is a mutual evaluation: we’re all seeing if we can forge a working partnership (even if the first session discovers some struggles to manage). If the first session(s) demonstrate that working together seems helpful, we’ll continue on a weekly journey until the relationship begins to identify that they can begin to make the counsellor redundant. 

Zoom

  • A private meeting room will have been created when we began setting up our counselling contract. You will have been emailed the room’s URL and password.
  • You may join the meeting before Dean connects. You’ll start off a “waiting room”. This is a security feature so that no-one else can join our session.
  • At the session start time, Dean will move everyone from the waiting room into the meeting.

Skype

  • Ensure Skype is loaded and you are logged in.
  • A Skype “Group” will have been created when we were setting up our counselling contract. You will have been emailed access to the group. Before each counselling session begins you will both sign into the group. At the session start time Dean will join the group.

Privacy in Counselling

In counselling we may be working with a number of sensitive or distinctly private subjects. It wouldn’t be surprising for some to feel extra concerned about their privacy.

These off-site articles tackle the subjects of how privacy is maintained (through encryption) when using Zoom or Skype.

    LGBT/QIA+ Counsellor Dean Richardson MNCS(Accred/Reg)

    You could choose any counsellor.

    But… when you consider that this is the most intimate & vulnerable you're going to be with your partner(s), you'd want to choose someone you could trust with your relationship in therapy. Someone who is British (working remotely but on the same soil) and payable in pounds. Maybe even someone who already had 13 years actual experience of working on webcam with Zoom & Skype before the National Lockdown began.

    • Someone who was sensitive and effective with you and your partner's sexuality / gender-identity and intimate ways of relating.
    • Someone, who'll you discover quickly, is an informed member of your own community.
    • Someone who demonstrates adept skills with lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, mixed sexuality and same-or-mixed gender relationships, but who avoids taking the role of an "all-knowing expert" (experts don't learn & respond, they tell!).
    • Someone who speaks plain English (and who can swear like a virtuoso, along with you both as much as you might prefer - or not at all), and works cooperatively with the relationship (doesn't sit in unnecessary silence, or just "hmms..." repeatedly).
    • Someone who is an accredited member of The National Counselling Society (accreditation originally awarded 12 years ago from another professional body, being a process that validates a counsellor's substantial experience and attention to an ethical practice) and who is a member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Union of Great Britain.
    … then you'd probably like to meet with the Gay Relationship Counsellor Dean Richardson MNCS(Accred/Reg) for LGBT/QIA+.

    Dean focuses on LGBT/QIA+ relationships as a specialty in therapy. He works with individuals, couples and small groups. Plus, he's qualified to a postgraduate level (Chichester PG Diploma in Psychodynamic/Systemic Couple Counselling, IGA National Foundation in Group Counselling) as a private practice counsellor*. 

    (*Note: not all counsellors - specifically those trained only in Individual Counselling - have such specific qualifications for working with couples nor groups, nor have experience of working therapeutically with relationships. Such counsellors try - out of perhaps misplaced goodwill - to employ ineffective "individual" techniques simply because your relationship is not part of their primary theoretical framework nor rationale. Remember always to ask a new counsellor: "what qualifies you to work with our relationship" and judge what you hear in response).

    Accredited Registrant of the National Counselling Society
    Member of the British Psychotherapy and Counselling Union
    Location Image
    The Cove Therapy Rooms, 12 West Street Havant Hampshire PO9 1PF UK
    +442392987487£30-£130
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    Private Relationship Counselling especially for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Mixed and Queer Couples - serving locations in and around central Havant, Petersfield to Waterlooville, Cosham to Portsmouth & Southsea, Southampton to Chichester, Fareham to Gosport, Hayling Island, Emsworth, Westbourne, Rowland's Castle, local residents anywhere in between and regularly further afield!

    Got a Question? Don't Hold Back…

    If you have a question about gay & lesbian couple relationship counselling in Havant and Waterlooville, or want to ask about making your first appointment, feel free to drop me a line any time…