Student Support & Wellbeing

University of Kent e-therapy guide

Who is the e-therapist?

E-therapists are counsellors based at the university in the Canterbury or Medway campuses.  We abide by the Code and Ethics as set out by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy for good practice, details of which may be found at www.bacp.co.uk.

Who is this service for?

This service is for registered students who are unable to physically access face-to-face counselling due to:

  • Being on placement away from campus or spending a year studying abroad
  • Where school time-tabling or other commitments are such that regular attendance for sessions is made impossible
  • Where disability issues make negotiating the counselling venue difficult/impossible

Please note that we are unable to provide e-therapy to those who are living in USA due to judicial conflict.

What sort of issues can I contact you about?

You can be supported on a range of psychological, emotional or mental health issues, such as adjusting to life, study pressures, relationships, sexuality, grief and loss, illness, traumatic experiences, low self-esteem, general depression or anxiety etc.

Since this is support from a distance, additional considerations need to be made in order to assess whether you can be adequately held during this difficult time when reflective work is being carried out.  Should we feel that e-therapy is insufficient or counter-productive for your needs, alternative suggestions of other forms of support will be made.

How does it work?

E-therapy is carried out via email exchanges, internet relay chats (IRC) or video conferencing via Skype for Business.  Up to 5 sessions are offered as per our face-to-face counselling.

Email exchanges:  Thoughts, feelings and comments are expressed in password-protected Word documents to be attached to emails we send to each other.  You may send as many emails as you wish during the week, as putting down your thoughts and feelings may be releasing in themselves.  However, please email documents in manageable chunks of around 500 words each time (roughly one page in size 12 font).  Your emails will be automatically acknowledged once they are received, but your therapist will only reply to them collectively on a weekly basis, on Thursdays.  In order to confirm your slot and receive a reply on Thursday, emails need to be received by 5pm on Tuesday.  Up to an hour is spent on replying to your emails each week and they will be referenced with TE (therapeutic emails) and sequentially numbered.  If your therapist finds herself unable to respond within this time frame, you will be contacted with an alternative day to expect a reply.

IRC (instant messaging):  A mutually convenient day and time for 50 minutes sessions will be agreed with your therapist, to be carried out once a week during week days between 9am and 4pm GMT, except for Wednesdays.  An invitation to this IRC session using Skype Business will be sent to you via email, in which there is a link to connect you to the meeting for the pre-arranged day and time.  Further instructions will be sent to you in the email.

Video conferencing:  A mutually convenient day and time for 50 minutes sessions will be agreed with your therapist, to be carried out once a week during week days between 9am and 5pm GMT.  An invitation to this session using Skype Business will be sent to you via email, in which there is a link to connect you to the meeting for the pre-arranged day and time.  Further instructions will be sent to you in the email.

It is expected that both email exchanges and IRC sessions are carried out on a weekly basis unless agreed otherwise.  Should we not hear from you in any one week, we will email you once to enquire about your wellbeing and your wish to continue with e-therapy.  This will be counted towards one of your allocated sessions.  Should we not hear from you after that, we will assume you no longer wish to continue and you will not be contacted again.  However, it is hoped that should you decide to end, you are able to explore this with your therapist first.

At the end of your therapy we will ask you to complete a simple evaluation form online.  Your feedback is valuable to us, helping us to monitor and improve our service to you.

Some considerations between different forms of support:

Platform

Pros

Cons

Email exchange

Can write/express anytime

Time delay in receiving response

 

Mimics journaling for emotional release

Misinterpretation of written words

 

Time for reflection

More self-discipline needed

IRC

Instantaneous communication

Less grounds covered in time frame

 

More structured, task-focussed

Similar scope for misunderstandings

 

Written dialogue available for reflection

Restrained within a booked slot

Video

Instantaneous communication

No record of session for reflection afterwards

 

Able to see facial expressions

Image quality dependent on internet efficiency

 

Similar to face-to-face sessions

Restrained within a booked slot

How do I apply for e-therapy?

You can

What happens after I have applied?

We will send/give you a few forms to fill in.  The purpose of these is to collect some registration details, to understand your history and circumstances, and to decide whether e-therapy is the best form of support for you.  You are encouraged to answer the questions in the assessment form as fully as possible as any details may be relevant to the difficulties you are experiencing.

Once these are completed and returned to us, we will email you within 5 working days to either confirm when sessions can begin, or offer other suggestions if e-therapy is deemed inappropriate.

Will our communications be kept confidential?

All email exchanges and transcripts will be kept confidential within the Wellbeing Team, which includes the secretary and external supervisors.  Video sessions are not recorded.  It is also normal practice for counsellors to liaise with the Medical Centre staff if concerns are noted for shared clients.  We normally do not disclose verbal or written information about you to others unless we have your permission to do so.  In rare cases, disclosure may occur without your consent if there is good reason to believe that you or others are at risk, or that disclosure is required by the English judicial system.

Therapeutic email exchanges are sent as an attachment in Word format which is password protected for additional security.  Your passwords will be given to you once therapy starts.  Email exchanges and invitations to IRC and video sessions will only be conducted via the Kent email address (ending with @kent.ac.uk) as this adds to a more secure pathway of communication.

Computers used at the Wellbeing Team are also password accessed and protected by anti-viral software.  However, although every care is taken to ensure confidentiality, intrusions such as hacking means that total security cannot be guaranteed.  Skype for Business is a third party tool, so we do not have control over the end-to-end service.  Please ensure what you are not using the service over an un-secure public network connection.

We would also encourage you to protect your own privacy such as considering access to your computer by others, installing appropriate anti-viral software, and not reading/sending emails or conducting IRC and video sessions in a public place, especially if sensitive issues are being discussed.

Do you keep copies of our communication?

Basic registration and statistical information is recorded about each contact made and this general information is collated onto our database anonymously. This data is used for an Annual Report.  We comply with the Data Protection Act (1998) which requires us to obtain your consent for such records to be kept at the point of registration.

Email correspondence will be kept for the duration of your work.  These will then be erased within one year from the last contact.  Transcripts from the therapy sessions will be stored in a file on your therapist’s computer, which is kept separately from any documents containing your personal information.  Video sessions are not recorded/kept.  All records, transcripts and case notes are then destroyed after five years, as recommended by our professional body.

Concession letters, references or other letters requested by you regarding contact with the Service are only provided after consultation with you.  Such letters will not be stored on the computer.

We ask that you also take responsibility for safe-keeping of any correspondence received.  No information about the content of your sessions, either directly from transcripts or re-told in your own words, are to be posted in the public domain, such as social networking sites.  Similarly the relationship you and your counsellor share is of a professional nature, and therefore any communications outside of pre-arranged sessions or via social networking sites will not be accepted by your counsellor.

What can I do should I want to complain?

Should you have any complaint, we ask that you contact the Wellbeing Team in the first instance.  Should the matter be unresolved, formal complaints may be made via BACP, details for which may be found at www.bacp.co.uk.
Please note that work is being undertaken in accordance with the laws of United Kingdom and any disputes will be subject to the English judicial system.

What if I need to contact my therapist urgently?

If it is for an administrative or appointment issue, you can contact us via the routes given under the heading of “How do I apply for e-therapy”.
However, please note that e-therapy, or face-to-face counselling, is NOT a crisis service.  Should you need to speak to someone urgently, please contact the following services:

  • Your doctor
  • NHS Direct  111 (UK)
  • The Samaritans 116 123 (UK), jo@samaritans.org
  • Nursing Service 01227 823503 (Canterbury Campus: open 24/7, term time)
  • Campus Security 01227 823333 (Canterbury Campus: emergencies only)
  • Befrienders Worldwide, www.befrienders.org

 

 

 

 

Student Support - © University of Kent

The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T: +44 (0)1227 823158, (0)1634 888969

Last Updated: 20/10/2017