Online Counselling Agreement

The following is a copy of my contract for online work. If we decide to work together, I will email a copy of this to you to sign and return to me:

If you are new to therapy, the idea of an agreement or contract might seem quite formal. Discussing payment, the timings of our work and additional areas described below could appear business-like or detached at a time when you are looking for someone you hope to trust with personal difficulties.

Hopefully, reading through this agreement will help you to recognise that its purpose is to help you to make an informed choice about whether or not to work with me. If we agree to work together, you may continue to have further questions or uncertainties, and I encourage you to share these so that we have an opportunity to address them.

Having some basic information available while making a decision also means our session time/counselling emails can focus on things that are more specific to you, rather than general issues for everyone. I distinguish between emails that are purely for the purpose of making arrangements (i.e. administration emails) and those that have therapeutic content (TC), and only receive fees for TC emails.

Emails will be acknowledged within 48 hours. Once we have made an agreement, my TC email will follow within a timescale we will agree together before beginning. It will be useful for you to consider in advance whether you would prefer to receive my response regularly on a specific day of the week.

If you have chosen to work live (using Vsee) we will agree the appointment time by email in advance – usually within 4 days. I will log in and be available from the start time we have pre-agreed. If you do not connect within 15 minutes, I will no longer be available for the session. Please be aware that your prepayment for the unused appointment will not be refunded unless you have cancelled with at least 24 hours notice.

If we work together using Vsee, I will only make live contact with you during the times we have pre-agreed via email. This helps to maintain your safe environment for counselling, and allows me to work thoughtfully and reflectively, without distractions. I prefer to let you know this in advance so that you do not have unnecessary expectations or fears about unscheduled live contact.

If you have not already done so, please read my information on privacy. I securely dispose of the brief anonymous process notes I am required to keep when providing therapy, after a year of no contact between us. Our confidential email exchanges are stored remotely in encrypted form on the Hushmail server and I also delete these after a year of no contact.

The Hushmail guidance advises:

you must still protect your own computer from viruses. Although all emails sent through Hushmail are virus scanned, Hushmail cannot prevent you from getting a virus from some other source, and once that virus has infected your computer, it could result in your Hushmail account being compromised as well. When using Hushmail, be sure to also use a virus scanner, and keep your virus definitions up to date. Also, don’t access Hushmail on a computer that you do not trust.”

I have a firewall installed on my computer and have a completely separate password protected, partitioned hard drive for online counselling/coaching work only.

Please note that your confidentiality is well protected but not absolute. I still have a duty to act within the law. For example, I have a legal duty to disclose information relating to acts of terrorism. I would also carefully consider breaking confidentiality to share specific information, if there was reason to believe that you were in danger of being harmed by an act of suicide or serious self-harm. The same would apply if I had reason to believe that a child was at risk of harm. In the unlikely event of departure from the usual confidentiality, I will endeavour to discuss what specific information will be shared and, where possible, hope to have your agreement. In an ongoing counselling relationship, it would be also be important to discuss the emotional impact of any such disclosure in our continuing work.

When considering counselling it is useful to reflect on how long you feel would be a realistic commitment for the work you would like to do. I regard short-term work as ranging from a single one-off live session or TC email exchange, up to three. Medium term work would be from four to ten sessions/exchanges, and anything above ten sessions/exchanges would be moving into longer-term work.

Please do not hesitate to ask if you would like me to give some additional guidance on your specific circumstances and how long I would estimate for the work we identify.

When making an assessment for therapy, I will always make a judgement about my own capabilities, level of training and previous experience, and consider whether that is appropriate for your situation. If I believe that a different therapy or way of working would be more beneficial for you, I will try to guide you within the limits of my knowledge. In some cases, with your permission, I may be able to make a referral to a more suitable therapist. This could happen after an initial assessment, during the course of our work together, or when we are completing our work. This is usually due to the limits of my own capabilities, rather than a personal rejection. If the situation arises when we have already started work together, I will do my best to support you during the transition.

As a general rule when using social media, I do not accept identifiable ‘friends’ or named followers on my professional pages. This helps to maintain the privacy of future potential clients who have ‘liked’ my website or social media professional pages. It also allows me to carefully reflect on the impact of so-called ‘dual relationships’ so that professional BACP best practice standards are promoted. I also encourage you to consider whether you need to amend your own social media privacy settings. If you decide to ‘like’ my online pages, this may still show on your own profile pages and be viewed by your connections.

I happily accept anonymous ‘likes’ and have also enabled the facility for sharing links to my website. If the situation should arise where you have made a request to connect as a ‘friend’ and I do not respond, I would to hope to have the opportunity to discuss your feelings around this during our work together and encourage you to raise the issue with me.

Please complete and sign below, to confirm you have read and understood the information.

Mobile telephone number:

Personal email address for counselling exchanges:

Other email address (optional):

I confirm that I am over 18 years of age and agree to the counselling contract. I understand that fees for online therapeutic work must be fully paid in advance.