Online vs Face to Face Counselling

Online vs Face to Face Counselling
Posted: January 13, 2021

There are numerous pros and cons of online therapy and face-to-face in-person talking therapy. As more and more of us have taken on a virtual lifestyle filled with Zoom pub quizzes and Google Hangout work meetings, talk therapy has had to take a similar turn.

We spoke to Elizabeth, a young professional who started therapy during the UK’s Lockdown back in the Spring of this year, and then began seeing her counsellor face-to-face when lockdown restrictions were lifted later in the year. Below, Elizabeth discusses her personal experience of counselling online and in person.

The Zoom experience

Elizabeth found that starting counselling on Zoom during lockdown “felt quite natural”.

Everything was going onto Zoom – everything was becoming “zoomified”! I think I might have found it more awkward before lockdown.”

Elizabeth had been to a couple of counsellors previously in person, so she somewhat knew what to expect, however she found the experience to be quite different.

I think things like showing emotion – there’s just a lot of information you can gather about someone from being in the same room as them. My counsellor would only see me from my shoulders up. Maybe the lighting was bad, maybe I wasn’t wearing makeup, so maybe I came across differently than how I would if I’d had to physically go to the counsellors office.” 

Elizabeth explained that she felt that her energy, her style – the way she presented herself didn’t come across the same way over Zoom, and she felt that her therapist might miss things about her. 

“But at the end of the day, what I’m saying to her is the most important thing, not how I look.”

The difficulties of vulnerability over Zoom

Counselling is a two way street, so being able to have that emotional connection is really important. With Zoom, that’s not impossible, but it can be more challenging.

It was good to be able to have counselling over Zoom from the perspective that if I was having a bad mental health day, I could see my therapist and it wasn’t much effort… Being in your own space, not flustered or rushed by having to get there on time was a positive.”

However, Elizabeth expressed that she struggled to fully open up to her counsellor over zoom. “When you’re in that private soundproofed office, it’s a very different feeling to being in your own flat! I was very aware of the people around me. When I was in lockdown, I was sharing a really small flat with my ex, so finding somewhere that was private was a challenge. The thing with therapy that’s so important is knowing you can say anything and it will stay between you and your therapist.”

“In lockdown, with my ex, things were a bit toxic, so I wasn’t taking myself out of the toxic environment to do therapy. The time I was most able to be honest about my relationship with my therapist was when I was able to be out of that flat to speak to my therapist.”

Moving to counselling IRL

So how was the transition from regular online counselling to in person face-to-face counselling after restrictions eased? “Nervewracking!”

I was suddenly worried about what I was going to wear for meeting my therapist in person. I’d been speaking to her for three months and then I was nervous to meet her! Obviously, it’s a professional dynamic, and when I met her in person we talked about the fact that we hadn’t met eachother in person. She said it was good to meet me in person because she could see new sides of me.”

Elizabeth said that in the past some therapists had commented on her confidence when she met them, but that hadn’t translated over Zoom.

“I was glad to see more of my counsellor. I was able to see her style, how she decorates her office – it felt suddenly more personalised. With Zoom, it could sometimes feel a bit automated.”

Would you choose Zoom in the future?

With Covid-19 still causing lockdowns and various restrictions all across the UK, counselling online is becoming the norm. Elizabeth says that at the moment since therapy is available as a face-to-face option for her, she’s enjoying being able to actively leave the house and physically go to her counselling sessions.

“At the moment because I’m working from home and most activities are closed, therapy is something I get to do. It’s a place I can go to get out of my home. I get to make a day of it, have a bit of a “me” day, like grab a coffee and cake and have a good excuse to get out.”

Therapy through lockdown

Elizabeth tells us that during lockdown she went through a huge journey in herself. “In the UK, there were two versions of lockdown: the people who lost their jobs, or people like me who got to work from home and my responsibility was just to stay at home. So I had a lot of extra time to work on myself, like leaving a relationship. My therapist has been a huge part of that and she’s been really really amazing through it.”

Elizabeth also encourages anyone who has tried therapy or wants to try therapy that “shopping around” for a therapist is really important. “If you feel like you aren’t getting each other, then don’t stay. I had a counsellor once who wasn’t really asking me things, wasn’t really getting me to the level I wanted to get to, so I decided to change therapist at that point. So don’t be afraid to try new counsellors! Ultimately, go with your gut.”

With Talk and Grow our goal is to make the process of finding a therapist an easy process. We connect you with qualified counsellors and therapists in your area, and make sure to support your needs the best we can. Get matched here.