Welcome to our final installment of the three-part series: Virtual Counseling Part III: Skype/Webinar Counseling. Here we will combine the visual with the virtual for a perfect match.
Skype is an online telephone service that offers free calling between users (or at a minimal cost for those who are using Skype to call mobile phones). Skype allows users to visually see one another through their webcams while talking. In addition, people can instantly chat online through their instant messaging service.
Online webinars or web conferencing (short for web-based lectures or seminars) can show PowerPoint presentations from any computer allowing the client to see the information while being presented. Sometimes the counselor and client speak over a standard telephone line while pointing out information being presented onscreen. If both users have a headset with microphone, they can talk via the internet.
So what are the benefits to using these types of visual virtual technology and should a practitioner consider going virtual?
Cost, Cost Cost. Paper-free handouts sent via email. No office necessary. No money spent on traveling, parking, gas. All these factors affect our budget. Talk about low overhead. You need a few items of equipment (computer, webcam, headset with microphone, phone) and you are set to go.
Convenience, Convenience, Convenience. Skype allows us to visually talk to people all over the world. Counselors can work with clients anywhere and anytime. For the clients who are immobile, this is a great way to visually counsel and not have to worry about commuting.
Visual, Visual, Visual. Both counselors and clients can see non-verbal cues which add to the power of the messages/discussion. Also, with the webinar component, clients can instantly watch videos or PowerPoint presentations while discussing the topic as if both counselor and client were in the room together. Screen sharing also allows for the client to view anything the counselor has on his/her screen.
Skype and Webinar counseling do have drawbacks:
Equipment. Both users need to have the proper equipment when using Skype or webinars, such as a head set with microphone and webcam. If specific software is needed to view the PowerPoint on a webinar that software can usually be instantly downloaded.
Distracting Environment. Since the counselor and clients can have this meeting anywhere the equipment is available, it is important to make sure that both parties are in a quiet, private space. Distractions such as children, construction, and noisy coffee shops can deter from the session.
Convenience and cost sum up the primary benefits for all three forms of Virtual Counseling. The question to you is: are you ready to go virtual? Try out just one type of Virtual Counseling with existing client(s) that you are very comfortable with and get their personal feedback on the pros and cons of this enhanced technology. With the speed that our technology is being developed and improved, taking advantage of these types of virtual counseling can benefit our practices and our client’s satisfaction.
To learn more about implementing Skype into your practice, check out the following website: http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/homepage.
Make sure to check out the series of her articles, Your Guide To Virtual Counseling Part I: Telephone Counseling and Guide To Virtual Counseling Part II: Email/Online Counseling: