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Instant Messaging Counselling Guidelines

Timing

Counselling is likely to work most effectively if sessions happen every week, except where you have arranged not to meet (eg holidays, illness, other commitments). Each session will last 50 minutes.

Once you have agreed the date and time for the initial session the online counselling administrative team will send you a confirmation email with your online counsellor's Skype address. Please send your online counsellor a contact request and they accept it prior to your session. Please do not worry if they have not accepted your request early on, they may not do this until a few minutes before your first session starts. 

Some tips on using Skype Instant Messaging

Sometimes, during the session, we may want a pause, to think things through. So if there is a silence, your online counsellor will type a full stop every so often to let you know they are still there. Please do the same so that your online counsellor knows you are thinking and that there hasn't been a technological breakdown.

If you want to say something lengthy, it’s helpful if you type and press send after every sentence or two. Then your online counsellor can read as you go along. Do this every couple of sentences or so, typing three dots (. . . ) and pressing Send. The three dots alert your online counsellor that you haven’t finished yet. Similarly, they will type three dots if they are continuing to speak.

If you like using emoticons, it’s fine to use them. If you don’t like them, just don’t add them.
Your choice!

Staying Safe

Skype automatically encrypts all communication and messages sent through Skype.  Click on this link for more information on Skype security Skype encryption.  

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.

Your online counsellor has their Skype privacy settings at ‘No History’ and will keep brief client notes, and email exchanges, password protected on their computer.  These will be permanently deleted six years after you last make contact with the Counselling Service.

If we lose contact on Skype

If either you or your online counsellor are unable to make contact with each other, or if you loose contact on Skype, your online counsellor will send you an email. You can do the same with them. So, if you are out of touch, check your email.

Also, if their computer has broken (unlikely, but it could happen), they will contact you by phone just to say they are not online and reschedule. You will be sent a text reminder, the day prior to each session, to your mobile. Let us know if you do not want us to do this.

If you can’t find your online counsellor on Skype at the arranged time, and have no email, text or phone call from them, you can contact the counselling reception at onlinecounselling@cardiff.ac.uk, or by telephone on 029 2087 4966. Let them know you expected a session, but can’t get hold of your online counsellor.

If your computer breaks down, please contact the Counselling Reception just to say you can’t meet your online counsellor as arranged.

About how counselling works

Your online counsellor aims to help you move forward through reflecting on yourself and your situation. 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 online 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 with 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:

  • If you are at risk of severely hurting yourself or someone else;
  • 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 progressing, 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 me 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.

How we secure your records
Your online counsellor will keep your messages on their computer. All computers are password protected. Only limited members of the Counselling Service staff have access to your records.

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

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