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In your own time

Email counselling – could it be for you?

Email counselling is becoming more and more common, and there are a number of clear benefits as to why some people might prefer to work this way. While some of my clients have used email counselling as part of their work with me, many have not heard of it or worked this way before, and none have yet worked entirely this way – however it is absolutely possible to do so, and can work better for some people than more traditional forms of therapy.

When I first trained in email counselling, I was drawn to the fluidity of how the work progressed, where each side could ‘speak’ without interruption, yet have all their points addressed. Each side also had the chance to address all points, without worry about when or how, or that something might be forgotten, lost in the natural flow of a spoken session, with the undercurrent of choice – which point do I address now, which path do I choose to go down? With email work, you have the pleasure of choosing all paths in a session, if you wish, and if time allows.

So how does it work?

 

Many clients find it difficult to know how email counselling might work – but it’s actually quite simple. You spend 50-60 minutes writing down your thoughts, and you send your email by a pre-agreed day and time. I then spend 50-60 minutes replying ‘inline’, so it becomes like a conversation, each line or paragraph addressed, and I return my reply by a day and time that we have pre-agreed. While some clients choose to write within the email body, many choose to have the session separated into a Word document, and attached to an email, so the contents are not instantly visible.

When or why might email counselling be a good choice for me?

The types of people I have found to enjoy email counselling are those with difficult schedules, very busy, shift work, or difficulties finding regular timeslots. This can include busy professionals, parents with kids at home, or people who struggle with executive functioning.

Email counselling has also been very popular with some of my neurodivergent clients (e.g. ADHD, ASD, dyslexia, giftedness), those who are very shy or introverted, or those that need or prefer more space or slower processing times during our work.

It can also suit those who simply love or prefer to write.

Key themes I’ve identified over time include:

  1. Overwhelm – email work can help reduce sensory overload by allowing you to reduce sensory input, slow down the work, or just take breaks whenever you need to.
  2. Distractibility or struggle with focusing your thoughts – if you struggle to focus or concentrate during sessions, or your ability to focus is variable, you can choose to write at any time during the week before your ‘deadline’, whenever your focus feels strong – or again, you can take breaks or do your writing in short bursts over the course of a few days
  3. Time management – if you find time management difficult or making a regular hourly commitment at the same time each week to be tough, then email counselling might be for you, because you can choose whenever you do your writing, and for how long, even doing a bit each day, as long as you return it to me by whatever day and time we agree.
  4. Difficulty communicating verbally – email counselling may an easier way for you to express yourself without anxiety or worry, if you feel ‘put on the spot’ when talking in person or you tend to freeze, or if you find it hard generally to communicate your thoughts or feelings using the spoken word.
  5. Fear of speaking – if this is your first time sharing something that is very difficult for you, writing can feel easier than speaking.
  6. Saving time – if you want to update your therapist with a lot of background, without interruption, you may find email counselling works better for the first few sessions, before you move to in-person, video or audio work.
  7. Doubling therapeutic time – both client and therapist spend the session alone and utilise it fully, so in this sense therapy time is effectively doubled, as both sides get to ‘speak’ for an hour, during a single session. This can mean that sometimes the work can go more deeply, more quickly.

I hope that this short article has given you some idea of when or why you might consider email counselling. If you have any questions or just want to give it go, drop me a message and we’ll book something in.

Please do remember that it can feel odd at first, as any therapy session can do, but after a few sessions, you will get used to working this way, and practice does make it easier!

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