Where is the standard setting to ensure counsellors and therapists who provide online video counselling (such as by Skype) are doing so ethically? The BACP provide ethical advice for online counselling but specific advice on the use of online video mediums is limited and is now several years old. It is a positive step that the BACP is updating the Ethical Framework to include the use of new technologies however are more detailed guidelines on the use of digital counselling now necessary?
There are clear differences and challenges with working via video, as opposed to face-to-face counselling, and yet when Facetime Consultancy speaks with counsellors and supervisors who work via Skype we continually hear that our profession is “working it out as we go along”. The cost of this attitude is most likely borne by our clients; the safety and care of our clients seems to be seriously neglected; and, the ethics of proceeding in such a fashion feels profoundly unethical.
As technology continues to develop apace, and more clients expect, and are at ease with, the use of mobile video technology, the therapeutic community appears in danger of getting left behind. For those counsellors and supervisors who are internet migrants (i.e. those of us who have not been brought up from infancy with the internet and smart technology at our fingertips) it appears that the fear of technology may also inhibit us even looking at developing our understanding of how this area may reach a broader range of clients. We are, as a profession, in real danger of being left behind both in terms of ensuring we are able to use the developing technology ethically and in the best interest of our clients, and also in terms of failing to meet our clients growing expectations and need, to be able to access counselling via online video in a safe, ethical, and effective way.
Is there too little interest in this topic amongst the therapeutic community? Should the therapeutic community be doing more to set standards; push this new, but already neglected, agenda; and, wake-up to this as a potential threat to the integrity and standing of our caring profession? Are we in real danger of sleepwalking into some misadventure which will further strengthen calls for Government intervention and control of counselling?
We fear the answer to all these questions is “Yes”. As a community we need to be picking up this agenda with some real urgency, and raising its profile and visibility. While associations such as the BACP and UKCP need to be taking a more proactive role in providing our community with the leadership to drive this agenda forwards, before others, with less benign interests, decide they must intervene.
Heather Roberts (Managing Director) & Rick Taylor (Strategic Development Director)
Facetime Consultancy is undertaking an online survey of counsellor’s attitudes to online video counselling; if you would like to take part please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Facetime Consultancy works to provide, promote and offer training in supportive video communications. For more information go to www.facetimeconsultancy.co.uk .