Have your say: Creating a Meaningful Online Counselling Experience for your Clients

Another big thank you to all who were able to make time to attend this month’s webinar! We were thrilled to have Tannis Goddard, President of Training Innovations, as our guest speaker. Tannis’ work on providing e-Career services has made her a leader not only in BC, but has also gained a lot of attention across Canada and abroad.

A copy of Tannis’ presentation slides can be found here. Below you can view the full webinar as well as a short video that provides a visual example of online engagement and interaction. Due to the webinar environment this video couldn’t run it in that space – viewing the video provides additional context to the information presented in the webinar session.

A few questions came in at the end of the webinar that we didn’t have time to answer. Take a look at those questions and Tannis’ responses below. And as always, don’t hesitate to join the conversation and pose your own question or describe your own experience regarding online counselling!


  1. Here are the remaining questions webinar participants asked that we didn’t quite have time to answer:

    What are your thoughts on counselling participants via Skype?

    • You might recall in the presentation that I asked the following question: “is the goal to approximate f2f service or embrace new methods”? For me, Skype is a bit more like distance delivery of f2f work.

      I can see situations where this could be valuable. One area where it holds great promise is to bring in an external expert into a local f2f counselling relationship (perhaps due to lack of expertise in a particular geographical region). I have used Skype to work with International researchers at a distance. We generally only work with audio not video connection as we find the video environment and quality difficult to manage with multiple users. So, a caution is that Skype may be a challenging technology for some Clients too. The other caution is to be sure and research the security standards for Skype and know what risks might be associated in calls, videos or messages in terms of being monitored or accessed by the company (Microsoft) itself.

  2. I think humans rely on F2F communication as we read each other’s body language and interpret tone of voice. That is why emoticons were created as it is so difficult to relay meaning with written text. Case managers in employment counselling use a lot of ICT but have to keep sight of the need to connect on a human level. Written text would work well for high functioning and literate clients, whereas clients with limited verbal and written skills would not do well. There is a fear governments will prioritize saving money by using ICT versus providing a full spectrum of counselling services.

  3. Neil Squire Society is using online learning / counselling – have you had any communication with them?

    • I have engaged in discussions about online learning/counselling with a number of Neil Squire staff over the years. They are doing some really interesting work.

      I am always open to exchanging ideas and collaborating!

      • Hi everyone,
        We do use online learning in our Employ-Ability program and in providing service to people who need coaching for computer skills. We provide service across Canada in five regions to Canadians who have physical disabilities. We have partners around the province of BC who join us with their clients to take part in these programs. Our curriculum is web based and our classroom is virtual. This means it is accessible 24/7 and we record our classes for clients to review or use at a later date if they are not able to attend during class.We can see each other, text, speak and share documents in this format.
        We deliver a 12 week pre-employment program that gives clients the tools to make the decisions that are right for them. Our clients have been very successful in using these tools to reach their goals in employment.
        Give me a call if you would like more information.

        Chris Wright

  4. I have participated in on-line business coaching and it was very effective – the freedom, flexibility, and ability to engage from home, and the written format was a good match for myself, was very practical and preferred at the time. This was launched after some face to face meetings which likely enhanced the rapport and trust established. Thanks for this research and webinar.

    • My pleasure!

      As a field there is much for us to learn about quality online career development services. Exchanges such as this webinar enable us to expand our understandings.

      Your comment also points to the importance of first-hand online learning/coaching experience. As I shared today, my first online learning experience was very powerful. After a short f2f residency we all returned back to our respective provinces, to our full time jobs, and very intensive course work. I’ll never forget when one of my fellow students referred to our computers and the time each evening we were all logging in to share perspectives as our “new community hearth.”

  5. My question is about the creating of privacy with the following context:

    • The Canadian Standards and Guidelines Code of Ethics 2.b. states that ‘Career development practitioners are cautioned that the issues of confidentiality apply to the use of information and communication technology’
    • The BC Employment Centre Report (May 17,2013) on ‘Skills Requirements for BC Career Development Practitioners: An Exploratory Study’ finds that Career Practitioners rate their skills low (page 21) in ‘Understand ethical concerns of electronic communication of social media’
    • In each of the 3 Social Media courses which I have taken, the instructor has been gung-ho on social media and light on the privacy and risks of using social media.


    What are the technologies that create complete privacy for career counselling online?

    • Thank you for raising the question of ethics and confidentiality – it’s a big deal to me and a key reason I emphasized the importance of strategic planning before starting up an online counselling service.

      The first place I start when addressing this important topic is to remind us that all ethical codes we adhere to in our f2f practice must be maintained and safeguarded in our online practice. However, we certainly have more levels of protection to attend to online. As you noted there are some references to the use of information and communication technology in the CSGs and work is being done to be more explicit about ICT and online practice within the Canadian Guidelines and Standards. There are a few other resources I can point to as reading and reflection points on this topic:

      National Career Development Association – Guidelines for the use of the Internet for Provision of Career Information and Planning Services

      Ethical Guidelines for e-guidance delivery and usage

      Online Therapy Institute

      In terms of the specific question regarding what technologies create complete privacy for counselling, I am afraid I can’t answer this with collective certainty – each agency needs to evaluate the ethical and confidentiality codes that guide it and evaluate software environments accordingly. End to end encryption and user-based roles is a priority for our team – that is a key reason we keep all of our online interactions (reflection coaching, chat, private messaging) within a secure encrypted platform. However, a secure platform by itself won’t guarantee confidentiality. Clients need to be coached to log off after sessions to ensure a family member or stranger in a public setting cannot sit down and see an open counselling session.

      We wrote the following White Paper about our online platform; it may provide some additional language and context about security considerations within an online counselling space.

      Ensuring that Clients are informed of the security precautions and the ethics guarding the online practice is absolutely essential.

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