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Email Counselling Guidelines

Emailing messages

Guidance on how much to write
Counselling is likely to work most effectively if you email your online counsellor every week. You can email once a week, or more often, writing as much as you like. You may wish to include poems, lyrics, links to songs or attach drawings or photos, to help your online counsellor to understand you more fully.You can write in the email body or use an attachment.

When emailing your online counsellor please title your emails 'Confidential for (counsellor's name)'. This ensures only your counsellor will open that email.

For added security and confidentiality write about your difficulties and anything you think it would be helpful for your counsellor to know about you in a password protected word document attachment. To password protect a word document, go to 'file', 'protect your document' and choose 'encrypt with password'. Don't forget to send your counsellor a separate email with the password in it!

If your online counsellor does not hear from you, you will receive an email checking how you are and asking you to respond within 48 hours letting us know if you would like to rearrange the session, and continue with your counselling.

If we do not hear from you within that time, we will assume that you no longer want counselling at this time – however, we hope that the decision to finish your counselling will be a joint one made when the time is right.

When will your online counsellor reply
Your online counsellor will reply to you at some point during the day that has been agreed by you both. Your email, with password protected attachment,  should reach your online counsellor by 8.30am on the agreed day. We will let you know if your online counsellor is unable to reply on the agreed day and your session will be rearranged.

Computer problems
If you have any technical difficulties with sending emails, contact the Counselling Service by email at onlinecounselling@cardiff.ac.uk or telephone on 029 2087 4966. The office staff will ensure your online counsellor gets your message.

An important reason for asking for your telephone number in your referral is so that we can let you know if we experience any technical failures.

What to do if you don’t hear from your online counsellor

If you don’t get a response from your online counsellor on the agreed day, the most likely problem is a technical failure.

If you haven’t got your expected response, let us know. You can try emailing again, or you can contact the Counselling Service front office on 029 2087 4966 or counselling@cardiff.ac.uk  

About you

It will be helpful to hear about your background, so your online counsellor can understand you in the context of your life and experience. For example, you could tell them about:

  • your parents and family
  • school experiences
  • current living circumstances.

Please feel free to be creative in what you send, including links to music, poems, lyrics, extracts from books, pictures, photos etc that may help your online counsellor understand you more fully.

About how we work

Your online counsellor will aim to help you move forward through reflecting on yourself and your situation, identifying your inner strengths and resources, and helping you to find more effective ways to address your difficulties. They will not routinely give advice, though they may suggest a different way of seeing something.

You are very welcome to comment on how you feel about their replies – what you found helpful, or anything you disagree with!

We hope that email counselling will be helpful for you, but it isn’t for everyone. If things are not progressing well, please discuss this with your online counsellor. If necessary, we can discuss if another type of help is better for you.

Confidentiality

Who your online counsellor talks to
There are a few limits on confidentiality, as described below. Otherwise, everything you tell your online counsellor is completely confidential. They would not discuss you with your tutors, GP, family, or friends, unless you have given them permission, and you both think it would be helpful.

Your online counsellor may discuss you with their supervisor and we also discuss our work within the small team of counsellors at Cardiff University. The supervisor and other counsellors keep everything confidential.

Limitations to confidentiality
In most circumstances your online counsellor will not break confidentiality. The circumstances where they might consider breaking confidentiality are:

1. If you are at risk of severely hurting yourself or someone else;
2. If the law requires it (there are very few circumstances, please ask if you want to know more).

Complaints

If you have difficulties with how your counselling is going, please let your online counsellor know, so that together you can determine what you need.
Should you feel that you have cause for complaint, you should write in the first instance to the Head of Counselling who will seek to deal with the matter informally.  He can be contacted through the counselling reception

If you wish to make a complaint against the Head of Counselling you should in the first instance write to the Director of REGOS who will seek to deal with the matter informally.
Should you wish to follow the University Complaints Procedure you should seek the appropriate section of the University’s Corporate Compliance website, complaints procedure

We work to the Ethical Framework of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). If you want to, you can view this at their web site: http://www.bacp.co.uk/ethical_framework
If you are unsatisfied with the response from the Head of Counselling, and Director of REGOS, you can contact BACP directly at BACP Complaints.  All complaints will be taken seriously.

Security

Your computer
It is always wise to have an anti-virus programme installed on your computer. You can ask INSRV if you need further advice on this.

Neither your online counsellor, nor Cardiff University (Counselling Service), can be held responsible for any damage to your computer.

Keeping your messages secure 
We suggest you make sure no-one else can read your mails, even if you don’t normally stop others having access. Sometimes people say things in counselling they have rarely or never talked about before. Hence you increase the security of your counselling sessions by writing in a password protected word document attachment. INSRV can help you with this if you are unsure how.

It is important to be aware that no online communication platform is 100% secure and private. Please bear this in mind when deciding what to share with your counsellor. The criminal justice system is regularly reviewed and updated to respond to changes in how we communicate, including allowing the police and courts access to Skype accounts if legally requested to do so.

How We secure your records
Your online counsellor will keep your emails in a separate folder in the secure University online counselling email address. All University computers are password protected. Only limited members of the Counselling Service staff have access to your records.

How long do we keep records for
We keep records for six years after counselling ends. Then we permanently delete records from our computer systems.

Originally referenced from: Judi Brosnan Oxford Brookes University, Counselling Service.