In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the features and trends of telephone/online counselling and their use in the areas of NDIS Autism and Bipolar Disorder. Like many other healthcare professionals, NDIS funded therapists have needed to embrace Zoom & Tele-health consultations when faced with the reality of a global pandemic and “social distancing”. But while pandemics may come and go, the technology and use of remote counselling are very much here to stay.

While remote counselling is still in its infancy, its origins can be traced back to the foundation of Lifeline which pioneered telephone counselling in Australia. With the advent of online/phone tools such as Zoom, Hangouts and Telehealth services, today remote counselling connects with and provides a growing range of services to a wide section of the community.

Like all forms of counselling, with remote consultations, there is a need to maintain a degree of closeness, while at the same time balancing that closeness by creating and maintaining a “join”. This is particularly true with Autistic and Bipolar patients where support, encouragement and empathy are critical while still establishing the need for the patient to take responsibility for their own life.

What are the trends in telephone/online consulting?

Currently, remote counselling tends to maintain a person-centred approach that focuses on setting goals. This approach takes in part, but not all, the “liminal space “with very little of it engaging with participants usefully.

The liminal space is a place of change, accepting the situation, or feeling freer in ourselves to journey there and back.

This liminal space may not be an easy place to be but allows therapists to connect with participants giving them the time to visit, enter and harness this necessary aspect of life. The future points to the therapist expanding their ways of thinking about how they are there for people.

Features of Zoom/Tele-health Counselling

Zoom/Telehealth consultations are often an NDIS participant’s first introduction to counselling and this may lead to in-person consultations. Typically counsellors are more in tune with the way people speak and non-verbal cues such as manner and tone. They will often ask more questions and seek clarity compared to in-person consultations. Participants on the other hand will often deal with emotions more easily than in face to face situations, but while this can create a barrier to communication this avoidance can often be therapeutic.

Other key differences of remote consultations compared to in-person could include: 

  • a greater degree of control by the participant
  • a more intimate interaction
  • the opportunity for a more focused and brief counselling session
  • the ability to conduct sessions at a more suitable time, which could be immediately
  • the option of anonymity

Remote interactions will often have higher emotional intensity as participants may call or login at a time when they are experiencing heightened levels of stress or anxiety. Counsellors need the skills to deal with people in these situations and be prepared to handle abusive and challenging calls.

Practical Considerations & Ideas

Participants in NDIS therapy sessions can often feel relieved knowing they have more control than face to face situations and don’t have to feel guilty about withholding. They feel they are in a safe, non-intimidating place and that it’s a safe place to talk. They can take comfort in knowing if there are things they don’t want to talk about then that’s ok. That feeling of confidence can often be better developed in remote situations.

In Zoom/Tele-health counselling sessions participants can often be unsure about where to start. Counsellors can address this by talking about things they could discuss, expanding on some topics and glossing over others.

Choosing Owen Kessels for Zoom/Tele-health Counselling

Whether you need a family therapist, clinical social worker or psychologist the NDIS gives you complete freedom to choose the type of therapy and therapist you want. Owen Kessels offers all NDIS consulting services through Zoom/telehealth, face to face home visits and in person at the therapy centre “The Creek Escape”. Contact us today and together we can help you have consultations with outcomes that really make a difference.

Owen Kessels is an NDIS therapist with specialised skills in Autism and Bipolar Disorder working in private practice.  He maintains an interest in family therapy through the Queensland Association for Family Therapy, and is a member of the AASW.