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Online Counselling and Guidance Skills

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Case Study 4
Case Study 4
Asynchronous computer-mediated support for clients accessing an independent
private practitioner
Case study 4 presents Nasrata, who is 25 years old. She contacts the practitioner by
email after locating the online counselling website which the Steph, the practitioner,
has recently published on the Internet. The clients presents in the following manner
within her initial email:
I feel that I need some personal counseling to help with some problems I am facing in
work and personal reltionships. I suffer a lot with anxity and need help to calm me
down when this happens. I can’t even get out of bed some mornings cause I feel so
low. Ive started drinking at night to help me sleep and I’m worried my family will find
out and say I need to go back home to live.they are very protectice of me and I just
want them to leave me to get on with my life. I never used to have problems with
anxity until I went out with a guy who was very verbally abusive to me and since then
it just seems to get worse. It was really difficult to get out of the relationship, but we
seperated a couple of weeks ago.
I think I may lose my job if I don’t sort things out. They have noticed that I’m a bit
groggy in the mornings and I think they might have realised that I’ve been drinking the
night before.
Can you help with anxity..if so then perhaps I can arrange an appointment with you.
Steph’s initial responses to receiving the client email:
Steph feels unsure if the client has some literacy difficulties which may have affected
the spelling of words within the email, or that the client may have been drinking when
she wrote the email (as she has mentioned that she has begun drinking at night).
Steph feels a little unsure if online counselling may be able to provide the level of
support the client requires as she has a sense that the client may be at risk, or
experiencing depression.
The client mentions that she has experienced an abusive relationship which steph
anticipates may have been more than verbally abusive.
The client feels quite isolated in many ways and Steph is unsure if remote counselling
may only serve to compound this.
How do Steph’s initial thoughts match or differ with your thoughts and feelings
regarding the client’s presentation within this first email?
How would you proceed?
The following slide looks at Steph’s approach and initial email response to the client.
First email reply: assessment and contracting stage
Dear Nasrati,
Thank you for contacting me for online counselling support, and also for the detail you have
provided within your email regarding the aspects of personal issues which are affecting you at the
present time. I can hear how upset you feel regarding the level of anxiety you are experiencing
and how this is impacting upon your personal and work life. I can also hear how you are
concerned that both yourself and others are noticing that the anxiety has reached a point where
you need support to regain a sense of control in your life.
When I initially reply to clients I like to check out that online counselling is the most suitable way
of a client getting the support they need, so I would like to ask you a few questions to see if I will
be the best person to offer you that. If you are uncomfortable with any of my questions, or feel
unclear about anything, then please let me know.
Can you please consider the following questions when constructing your next reply:
Have you spoken with your GP regarding the level of anxiety you experience since the break up
of your relationship. If so can you provide me with information regarding the outcome of this?
You mention that you have started to drink alcohol in the evenings to help manage the anxiety.
Would you say that this affects how you might be able to engage with counselling if writing emails
when you have been drinking, or would you be prepared to write your replies without having
consumed alcohol? ( I ask this question as I feel that it can affect thought processes and memory
if clients write their emails when under the influence of alcohol.)
First email reply (continued)
Are you receiving any support from other agencies regarding the anxiety or any other
personal issues you have mentioned? If so, could you provide me with information on
the support you are receiving?
Do you feel that online counselling would be your preferred option of counselling
support, as opposed to meeting with a counsellor in person?
I hope you don’t experience my questions as intrusive in any way. I would like to offer
the reassurance that I have asked them so that we can both decide if the support I can
provide will be the best option for you. I’ve included a link here for a website which
offers support to people with anxiety. You might like to check it out and see if there’s
anything that seems helpful whilst we are in the process of deciding if I can offer the
help you need.
Website link:
Kind regards,
Points for Discussion
What are your initial reactions to Steph’s reply to the client?
How might you have structured a reply in a different manner?
How do you anticipate the client may have experienced the content of the reply?
The following slide contains Nasrati’s reply
Nasrati’s email reply following Steph’s initial email response
Hello Steph,
I don’t mind answering your questions. I can understand that you would need to know
more about me and what’s upsetting me to see if you can help. Thanks for the website
link. It was really helpful. I also rang their helpline last night.
I have been to my GP and they have given me some anti depressant. They thought I
was depressed more so than anxious. I have felt realy tired since I started taking them
so I don’t think that’s helping with how I feel or getting up for work.
In respect of alcohol, I would write my email reply early in the evening or at weekends
so I don’t think this would afect how I write them or what I say. I was referred to a
nurse a while back (2 years ago I think) when I was depressed and I use to have to see
them once a week. They used to come to my flat to check I was okay. This time things
are not so bad nd now ive finished with my boyfirend I think this will help. I would
prefer online counselling as I think this would fit in better with work and I can always
think about face to face counselling after a few sessions with you if needed.
Steph’s thoughts after receiving the client’s second email
The client had provided reassurances that she was willing to seek the support of a GP
when required. This led Steph to believe that if the client’s mental health deteriorated
during online counselling, she would be open to a suggestion of re-visiting the GP
practice. This would enable Steph to be able to fulfil the required duty of care to the
The client had provided reassurances that she would write her email to Steph without
having consumed alcohol.
The client had been open regarding a previous incidence of mental health difficulty
where she had received the support of a mental health nurse. The client was also able
to clarify that the way she was experiencing the current depression was not as bad as
the previous incident.
The client had confirmed that online counselling was the preferred option at the
present time, and also mentioned that she would consider a face-to-face option at a
later point if needed.
Based upon the client’s reply, Steph decides that it would be appropriate to offer online
counselling with the client and replies to Nasrata with a suggested contract for their
Points for Discussion
Do you agree with Steph’s decision to proceed in offering the client online counselling
appointments? If you disagree discuss the points which have brought you to that
What additional information might you have requested from the client, or what aspects
would you have omitted from Steph’s online assessment of client suitability to be
supported via a computer-mediated facility?
The next stage of engagement with the client would be the contracting phase. Based
upon the client’s presenting issues and the general considerations of what is pertinent
to include within such contracts, what main elements would be included within the
You may find it beneficial to have read Chapter 6 of the book before conducting this
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