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Working indoors

Meeting face-to-face is the preferred form of counselling for many, but during recent lockdowns many clients and therapists have had to adapt and explore. One solution for me has been to work in a larger space. Knowing that Covid19 transmission is lower in larger, well ventilated spaces I have arranged use of a hall and added an airpurifier which filters the air of viral particles. These measures, when added to the others below, creates conditions that I personally feel are almost as safe as working outdoors, but with the more traditional inclusion of 4 walls, sofas and less chance of rain. Being almost 70m2 it is not as warm as my usual counselling room, but it feels safe and cosy enough.

It is also a good place for couple counselling.

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Telephone/online counselling

As a counsellor I have been using remote contact for some time (online/video or telephone counselling), even before the Covid19 pandemic made house calls unwise and small meeting rooms insecure. Working remotely can offer some challenges to communication, but may also offer some advantages and greater access for many. I am pleased to say that I have had good results with many clients via telephone and videocalls.

It is important to smooth out the technical challenges and idiosyncracies of video calling but this is quick and easily. It be negotiated to help us both feel comfortable and offers some creative opportunities too. Clients have used the chat boxes to write down key phrases and question or to write things they cannot say out loud. They have a record of key questions or thoughts to review later. Whiteboards and screen sharing allow us to use images, diagrams and drawing exercises to explore non-verbally.

Lastly, working by phone or online allows you to be at home or in a space that you can control. This can be really helpful if travelling to a meeting causes stress or anxiety. I recognise that it can also be hard to create a feeling of privacy, in a shared home space, but together we should be able to make the best of these challenges and find a way to work safely and comfortably.

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Working outdoors

Working outdoors is particularly appropriate to the situation we find ourselves in now. Living with the threat of an airborne virus makes the indoors, especially small rooms, a less safe place than usual.

This approach to counselling and psychotherapy is often described as outdoor therapy, eco-therapy or Walk-and-Talk therapy. Client and therapist meet outdoors at a pre-arranged location and walk together. They may stop and sit, or keep moving, they may take the same route each week or explore, but the session does not include four walls and the familiarity of a temperature controlled counselling room. Nature, the weather, passers-by and the “other-than-human” can impact on the session. They can also present welcome opportunities and a wealth of metaphor.

We all know how regenerating a walk can be, and there are good reasons for this. A conversation finds space to breathe outdoors, where the visual input and the rhythms of movement allow for a more reflective experience. Therapy can also happen in these spaces, where our connection to the environment is not ignored. Where we feel ourselves to be part of something larger…

When outdoors, we may be utilising our senses and feelings as much or even more than our verbal capacities. By taking this more embodied approach, working outdoors can deepen the experience and integrate clients in ways that standard therapy conversations struggle to do.

But it is not always right for every client, so I insist on a staged introduction* to the process which allows us to clearly establish wether this process will suit you and wether we can work safely in this way. This includes a preparatory conversation – by phone or video-call, a meeting outside and an assessment by email/phone, before a session or two outside. Then we can decide wether to continue working in this way.

Good literature is available on why this works. Search for eco therapy, or contact me for further info.

*before agreeing to work together outdoors I employ a 3 stage assessment process. This begins with a phone/videocall where we discuss the approach and briefly look at how it might be applicable to you. Then we would meet for a short session outdoors which forms a deeper part of the assessment and a chance to ask each other some questions.

Finally we would agree to a short series of outdoor sessions; perhaps 6, to explore the issues you wish to attend to and to see how we can work together. This part may either come to a natural conclusion, or flow into longer work. Each step provides extra assurance and time to reflect on what you are bringing to your counselling/therapy.