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Practice of Psychotherapy Counsellor Training

IOC-400 Introduction to Online Counselling, I&II

Practice of Psychotherapy Therapist Training

Course Content:

(IOC-400) Introduction to Online Counselling, I&II is a six week course.
Online or e-counselling, takes place when the counsellor and client conduct counselling sessions through an electronic medium such as email, chat, texting. To ensure the same quality of therapy as face-to-face sessions, online counsellors must demonstrate competency in all basic counselling skills, while delivering their theory and techniques in an online format.

Introduction to Online Counselling, I&II (IOC-400) provides students the opportunity to modify and integrate their face-to-face counselling style for use in online sessions. The result is a unique counselling approach applicable for entry-level to advanced-level scope of practice that reflects the practitioner’s training, values, and therapeutic modality.

Topics in the primary textbook include: an introductory overview of current research on the use and effectiveness of e-counseling, and data on the idiosyncrasies of online behavior and communication. Practical aspects, skill sets, and required competencies for counseling online are discussed at length, along with technological, ethical, legal, multicultural, assessment, treatment strategies, and ideas on how to set up an online counselling practice.

The secondary textbook is meant as a reference guide for advanced practitioners.
Topics include: the use of video conferencing tools to facilitate the in-depth, virtual processing of individual, couple, family and group therapy, with specific concerns related to online group dynamics. The text also discusses the responsibilities of the therapist and group leader in online sessions.

Skills learned:

  • how to design necessary practice management forms, and structure a business plan appropriate for an online counselling practice.
  • how toopen the online session, deliver informed consent, and build a therapeutic alliance.
  • determine scope of practice and client’s readiness for online counselling.
  • refer to issues from the online intake questionnaire to gently guide the session.
  • reflective listening to demonstrate empathy.
  • reflections on client’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  • deepening the online session using exploratory questions and counselling techniques that flow naturally from client’s previous responses.
  • close the online sessions with validation and non-threatening homework to maintain continuity for next session.
  • use of outcome measures to determine progress and readiness for termination.
  • uses of technology to provide innovative solutions for counselling and psychotherapy.
  • legal and ethical considerations in providing virtual or online counselling and psychology sessions.
  • utilize recognized therapeutic modalities as you facilitate online counselling sessions.
  • identify client’s resistance and/or progress throughout the online counselling process, and recognize readiness for termination.
  • apply online counselling model to a wide variety of complaints in otherwise, well-functioning clients who present with symptoms such as anxiety symptoms, feelings of depression, interpersonal conflicts, damaged self-esteem, unresolved losses, maladaptive behaviors, guilt, and addictions.
  • design necessary practice management forms, and structure a business plan appropriate for an online counselling practice.

PORTFOLIO OF JOB SKILLS from a student’s perspective-

My professional career goal is to create a private practice, primarily one that is online as I intend to be mobile.  This course was integral in discovering the logistical and legal issues that will impact my choices moving forward.

Having the opportunity to read and watch videos pertaining to all the logistics and licensing issues surrounding online therapy has been very informative and enlightening.  I have learned a lot about the limitations as well as the advantages of online counseling.  I have discovered the various methods to deliver online counseling including email, phone, video, SMS, and live chat.

I also learned about the importance of encryption and authentication for online therapy to ensure that I am dealing with the client and not someone else.  This is a vital part of maintaining confidentiality and efficacy with the client.  This is also important in building therapeutic alliance as trust is a vital component to that and the client needs to be able to trust the process as being safe and secure.  Although it is important that the client is aware that even though all precautions can be set up in advance, there is always a risk to online therapy that exists where confidentiality may be breeched of no fault to the counsellor.  There are always “hackers” in this world that can break down even the most secure barriers in cyberspace.

Having had the opportunity to complete the therapy process with a “client” by email, I discovered that this may be a strength for me moving forward.  One I hadn’t considered as I was more focused on phone and video options.  I believe that writing creates new alternatives for both the client and counselor to explore the client’s issues in a format that may be more comfortable for one or both.  It could be a way to ease into other formats or it can become the main option for therapy in a long-term treatment plan.  Even though email has many limitations including the loss of non-verbal cues in determining the wellbeing of a client, it does allow both the client and counsellor opportunity to read and reread and process information shared both ways before responding.  I found this for me to be very helpful as a beginner as it gave me time to look up information that I wanted to share and that I thought would be most helpful to my client.

It's also important to note that every online therapy option has its drawbacks including the possibility of not being able to hear the tone or inflection in voices if not using phone or video options, not being able to observe a person visually to determine affect or other non-verbal cues, and it may lack the intimacy that is created in a face to face environment in which the counsellor can use body language and voice to portray empathy, compassion and rapport.

Finally, having the opportunity to create and explore all the forms and criteria necessary to have a proper online therapy business was important and helpful.  For me, it is just a starting place, but was helpful and necessary to understand and have practice in developing.  In my own business, I would continue to tweak and finetune my forms into something I know is of value to myself and others.



Skills learned in this elective may be applicable to entry-to-mid-level employment as a counselor in a variety of mental health settings such as:

  • Consulting with private businesses.
  • Private practice for supervised entry-level counsellors, and advanced clinicians.
  • Outpatient mental health clinics.
  • Home support services.
  • Women’s shelters and centers.
  • Crisis line.
  • Victim’s assistance outreach teams.
  • Substance abuse treatment facilities.
  • Outpatient hospital counselling services.
  • Pastoral and faith-based counselling.
  • First Nations wellness centers.
  • Support services for parents, children and youth.
  • Counselling in public agencies for recipients of financial assistance and social services.
  • Counselling services in post-secondary schools.
  • Human resource departments in private business and public agencies.
  • Career planning/ employment agencies.

In addition, you will gain valuable experience in the context of your supervised, volunteer placement or employment setting.

NOTE: Specialized training from an accredited college or university is advised for counsellors who intend to offer online, telephone, or cinema therapy. In order to obtain liability insurance, and apply for designation through professional associations, or regulatory colleges, entry level counsellors are required to practice under supervision for the first two years following graduation.

Counsellors residing in Canada who are members of a professional association or regulatory college, are permitted to provide the types of mental health services that fall within their scope of training and ethical standards.

The specialized courses in e-Counselling offered through KCPC, conform to ethical guidelines and competency standards established by the Ministry of Advanced Education in BC; the Competency Profile for Counselling Therapists; the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association, (CPCA); Association of Cooperative Counselling Therapists, (ACCT); and the Canadian College of Professional Counsellors and Psychotherapists (CCPCP).

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