!Disclaimer! These are my own view on what platforms I work with. I am not saying this with my ACTO director hat on. And this is how I interpretate the info I find on the internet and how I chose to work. I am sharing it here in detail as it can help some of you debating on how to work online.
I would stress that you seek training as soon as possible. What platform to use is only going to be one of the questions that is going to come up when you consider online therapy. You would be doing yourself and your clients a disservice if you don’t take this seriously and as a branch of therapy that needs training.
Normally I use two platforms, one for email and one for video / audio.
My go to platform for email is protonmail. It is encrypted, easy to use and free. It works best if your clients also sign up for a free account.
I normally use Zoom. Some of you know Zoom already in a few years time it became the go to platform for many therapists and coaches. It is also easy to use. You send you clients a link for the meeting. It is also very easy to use.
Normally Zoom has pretty good quality of video and audio but at the moment with literally half the world population working from home, quality is down.
If you usually use Zoom there are several things you can do:
- Turn to audio only. It uses much less bandwith. [make your clients aware beforehand that this may happen and that you are both comfortable with using audio only]
- Try to find a time that less people may be online. This may not be easy as these platforms are used worldwide. But it can make a difference. For example in Europe mornings may be better as people on the American continent are less likely to be online then.
- Shut down as many other appliances as possible and shut down everything else on your computer. Especially! Make sure nobody in your household is downloading anything when you have scheduled a call.
If none of these work you may want to have another platform researched that you can turn to. These are likely a little bit less known and may not be used as much, so the bandwidth could be better.
I personally would never use Skype for therapy. This article says it better than I could. Short story, there are just too many privacy issues with Skype.
As I use free platforms that leaves me with one other platform I would use at the moment in case of emergency.
This is open source software. Open source more or less means it is built by computer nerds who take security very serious. I did find this article on how it works but you do need a degree in computer geek talk to understand it so don’t feel bad if you don’t. I trust it as my very IT friends who are very privacy and security minded use and trust it. And it is even easier to use as Zoom.
What about mobile apps I hear you ask?
The short answer, I don’t use them for therapy period.
Let me explain more and then I will tell you which platform may work if you really want to use a mobile app.
- Make sure you are alone when you use them and nobody can see your screen.
- Use one that does not show your friends list to others
- Use one that does not show when you were last online. For example on Whatsapp you can see when someone was online last. Imagine that a client has sent you a message that they think is very very urgent. You have not replied and they can see that you have been on whatsapp. This can lead to a lot of anxiety, abandonment issues and even anger.
I have already mentioned one reason why not to use it above. An important reason for me not to use WhatsApp is that it is owned by Facebook and Facebook makes money from selling information. They say they don’t sell WhatsApp info, but still I will not use it. Read this article on it. And for the same reasons I don’t use WhatsApp I would never use Facebook Messenger for therapy.
I am honestly not sure on Facetime. There have been breaches in the past and yet Apple does offer good security. I do not know enough about it to be sure. But there is one simple reason why I do not use Facetime. It can only be used on apple products. And I only have an Ipad and many of my clients do not have apple products at all.
If you are interested here is an American article on Facetime security.
I promised you one that I would use. [If I did therapy on my phone, but I am crap at typing on a phone ]
Signal works almost the same way WhatsApp does. But… it does not show you when someone was online last. It is very well encrypted and does not sell that data to anyone. You can find a starters guide to signal here.
Use your own common sense when selecting your platforms to work with. Do research and go with your gut. There are certainly other platforms out there that I have not covered. If you find one use the points I have mentioned above to figure out if you could use it.
If you have never done online therapy remember it is an art and it is different from F2F therapy. In that case I would only offer to hold your clients until this is over. And if online therapy appeals to you get training as soon as you can.