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  • Writer's pictureMelinda Aspell

The Accessibility of E-Counselling

E-counselling has many benefits over traditional in person counselling, the biggest being it's accessibility. Coming from a disability background, accessibility is very important to me and I want to ensure my private practice is accessible to everyone. E-counselling enables me to do this.

E-counselling is available to anyone with an internet connection, at any time. The counselling process is no longer confined by traditional business hours, travelling for appointments, and dedicating an uninterrupted hour, or more when you factor in travel and waiting rooms, to a session.

When I began working at CNIB as a counsellor in 2005 I quickly realized the importance of accessibility and counselling services. Each day I would speak to people living in remote, rural areas where they felt isolated and alone. They often could not attend traditional counselling due to lack of availability of services but also an inability to physically get to sessions. They could not drive due to their vision loss and there was often no public transportation, which left them reliant on others to get to and from appointments. As well, they lived in small towns where there was no sense of anonymity when they could actually access services. Almost immediately, they lost a sense of independence and confidentiality.

My goal quickly became making counselling accessible to ALL clients, not just those that were able to physically visit my office. I started proving telephone counselling services and went on to create an accessible group counselling program via teleconferencing... remember this was before the days of Zoom. At the time this approach was so revolutionary, I actually attended an international conference in 2008 to share this service delivery approach with others. Needless to say, we've come a long way but some things have not changed. Many people still struggle to access private and confidential counselling services and finding the time to do so. Counselling should help ease your stress, not add to it!

Thankfully, e-counselling helps take some of the stress out of accessing counselling services. It provides an additional level of privacy as clients are not reliant on others for transportation and they don't have to worry about running into those they know entering or exiting a counsellor's office or having their vehicle be seen parked outside. This can be especially important for those in abusive relationships or needing an additional layer of privacy.

People can now access counselling services on their schedule. This is especially true for asynchronous counselling where the person can enter and exit the session as they choose. I always recommend that clients spend a full hour reading and responding to get the most out of the process but let's be realistic, that's not always possible. Sometimes you only have 10 minutes here or there or maybe you do get an hour but it's a midnight... that's okay! E-counselling is always there, the room is always open. You can spend a full week crafting a reply or do it in 30 minutes... that's okay. It's all about what works for you, the client.

E-counselling is broadening the accessibility of services. It requires much less bandwidth than video counselling, there's no worries about being overheard in a full house or busy workplace, you can access services from anywhere and on any device that has an internet connection, there's no travel involved, no scheduling of appointments for asynchronous sessions... the list goes on and on and on.

I'd love to hear what you see as the benefits of e-counselling. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


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