How online counselling works

For email counselling 

  • You and your counsellor will exchange up to 6 emails on a regular basis using your @bham email address through the Canvas inbox.
  • Your counsellor will let you know on which day each week they will respond to you.
  • Try to keep your emails to within one side of A4.
  • For your security: We strongly urge you to either delete your emails or save them as a password protected word document before deleting them from your inbox and sent items.
  • All email communication between you and the service will only take place using University of Birmingham assigned email addresses. This is a secure encrypted network. The use of SSL encryption protects username and password credentials and prevents mail traffic being intercepted. (i.e. TLS using port 25, or immediate SSL on port 465)
  • In using The University of Birmingham IT facilities you are reminded to safeguard your passwords, the privacy of your workspace, email deletion and logging out procedures.
  • Your counsellor will delete all emails from their inbox immediately after coping and pasting them onto a password protected word document, stored in a ‘limited access’ folder on the university server. The password protected version will be subject to the Online Counselling Policy data storage and processing procedures.

For text based real time counselling or audio visual counselling

  • The conferencing facility will be opened to you for the duration of your online counselling session with the texting/chat function or the webcam, microphone and sound (audio visual) functions available, depending on the preference you selected on your agreement.
  • In line with our Data Protection policy, we will retain a copy of all written correspondence (including our agreement, emails and any transcripts from real time text based sessions) on a password protected word document held within a restricted access folder on the university server.
  • Your counsellor will not record or save any content from audio and visual counselling sessions.

Counselling within Canvas

  • Your counsellor will create a personal Canvas course which is exclusive to you. It will appear under your Canvas course list as OCS followed by a 3 or 4 digit number. You can access your course at any time.
  • On the home page of your course there will be a link to our online counselling agreement which you will be required to complete as it outlines the extent and limits of the service, what you can expect from us and what we expect of you in using this service.
    We cannot proceed with online counselling without this document (‘signed’ contract) as it is considered as your informed consent in accessing and receiving online counselling.
  • The University of Birmingham eLearning/IT Service team have access to Canvas and emails as part of the University IT User monitoring policy.
  • Canvas (hosted within the EU) is serviced, maintained and subject to Data Protection policy & procedures.

Basic netiquette (text based counselling)

  • If you opt for email or text based real time counselling there will be no visual contact between you and your counsellor, so it can be useful to employ other methods of letting each other know what is happening in the moment or expressing emotions using what is known as netiquette. 
  • For example, if you are thinking about how to respond to something your counsellor has said, you may want to type [thinking] to let them know you are still there and working with them, or if you have a longer response you can break it up by using dots……….. before typing the next part of what you want to express. This lets the counsellor know that there has not been a technical breakdown and alerts them to what is going on for you in the ‘online silence’. Your counsellor will also provide you with this type of information as you communicate together.
  • Emoticons can be useful too e.g. smile :-) sad :-( or maybe even a wink ;-) to indicate humour.
  • The use of capitals tends to indicate shouting, so if you want to strongly express something without shouting, try underlining or italics instead.
  • Remember that because of the lack of visual contact it is Ok for you and your counsellor to check out your/their understanding of the meaning of the words as they appear onscreen.
  • Some of these aspects of communicating online will become second nature as the counselling relationship begins to develop and you become more engaged in the counselling process.