The Future of Counselling

Published on July 8, 2020

Over the past three months, we’ve seen people, organisations and businesses make adjustments to adapt to “The New Normal”. While it has largely been a work in progress with everyone still figuring out the best way to go about things, we cannot deny that certain needs have been brought to light.

Twitter has conducted some research and broke down what many of their users’ physical and mental needs were, giving us considerable insight into this new normal.

The effects of isolation seem to be taking a toll on many people, causing a surge in mental health awareness and support. However, can the human connection be replaced?

We spoke to Eugene Chong, the Principal Counseling Psychologist with Seeding Minds, and a consultant psychologist with Our Journey, to find out more about his experiences conducting his sessions online.

Virtual counselling is not anything new to Eugene as he has been practicing this for quite some time, mostly on an ad hoc basis. However, with the shift, he has seen some changes.

What has your experience of performing online counselling been like so far?

“Many of my patients still prefer meeting at my clinic, however, due to the covid-19 CB, things took a major turn whereby online counselling became the next best option. One of the key concerns is therapeutic alliance.”

In this regard, many patients might feel like it is more difficult to chat online, perhaps due to factors like a lack of privacy. There have been articles that talk about “zoom fatigue” where people tend to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, body language, tone and pitch of voice- all of which are factors that can help a psychologist gauge how the patient is feeling. Additionally, having to see themselves on screen may make the experience almost performative as people feel watched, which can add on to the pressure.

“To add on to the discomfort, in my psychology training, online counselling is always filled with obstacles and limitations, and therefore often discouraged.”

Despite all these factors, Eugene has noted that both him and his patients have slowly grown accustomed to meeting online. Having said that, there are considerable benefits and challenges to online counselling.

Benefits

At the comfort of the clients’ home

Reduced travelling time

Lower cost of rental which means therapy may become more accessible as costs can be reduced

Challenges

Depending on the home environment, clients could have heightened anxiety

Easily distracted because kids/family members disruption

Certain conditions may not be suitable for the online counselling such as severe mental illness (depression, schizophrenia), family violence, and trauma related cases


Having weighed the pros and cons, we do see that there may be changes to the way counselling is being conducted, but for now, it might be possible to take on a hybrid approach to allow the client and counsellor a little more flexibility.

However Eugene notes that he was unable to perform the full range of treatments which tell us that face to face meetings are still crucial. Speaking of having slightly tougher cases that require more attention, what happens when a patient comes in with a unique problem that you find difficult to solve?

“We will typically explore and I will provide some tasks for patients to do before the next session. After the session, I will then arrange for consultation with my supervisor to discuss my challenges.”

In counselling, it is important to approach things with an open mind so as to not close off any potential options.

There has been increased awareness about mental health especially over this period, which has led to less stigma about the struggles with common mental health struggles. While information on more common illnesses such as depression and anxiety have become more commonplace, certain illnesses like schizophrenia have not been given that much prominence.

Depression and Anxiety disorders more common than schizophrenia, are there any myths or misconceptions you would like to debunk about schizophrenia?

“Common myths such as they are dangerous and tend to commit criminals and they have a split personality. In reality, they are not dangerous but rather harmless. They tend to be preoccupied in their world of delusions and hallucinations. Often, they experienced a split reality rather than a split personality.”

More often than not, people just require a little more understanding.

As a psychologist, people expect Eugene to be the one to offer solace and explanation for their psychological troubles, but sometimes, practitioners do experience burn out too.

“For certain individuals whom I find it difficult to help because of the complexity of their situation I will spend time reflecting on my approach and reading up materials to better equip myself.”

As such, Eugene believes that the best way to deal with the new normal is by learning to accept change. In being open to trying new things and exploring new ways to approach an old problem, you might potentially discover a better method, which can be useful in managing stress and expectations.

If you are feeling stressed, down or just need someone to talk to, please do not hesitate to contact us "); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px);" target="_blank">here, remember that you are not alone. Take care everyone!


Category(s):Self-Care / Self Compassion

Written by:

Eugene Chong

Singapore based counselling psychologist providing counselling, psychological assessment, clinical supervision, and accreditation certification in prepare/enrich

Eugene Chong belongs to Seeding Minds in Singapore

Mental Health News