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Knowing that your counselling sessions are private and that everything discussed is kept confidential can play an important role in how safe and held you feel in therapy. This in turn can impact what you feel able to share and explore with your therapist, and ultimately how much your time in counselling meets your needs.

Online or telephone therapy can be a rich and nourishing experience with many benefits including: more access to a diversity of counsellors across the UK - helping you to find the therapist that might feel the right ‘fit’ for you; there being no time spent on commuting to your sessions if you already have a busy life; and this mode of therapy being an accessible option if you experience any challenges leaving your home or travelling.

If you are engaging in remote therapy (in a location that is different to your therapist), here are 10 ways that you can actively safeguard your privacy. Depending on your circumstances, only some of these may be relevant.

    1. Protect your devices

To ensure no-one can access communication between you and your therapist, it can be good practice to ensure that your devices (whether it be a phone, computer or tablet) are password protected. If your are particularly concerned about someone having access to your device there are additional measures that can be taken - see below for details on encrypted email. I also always call clients engaging in telephone counselling from a withheld number to ensure there are very limited records of our calls together.

   2. Choose a secure platform

There are many platforms available for meeting online and these can offer different levels of security. For example, the majority of my client work is conducted on Zoom which I have chosen to use after extensive research. This platform offers end to end encryption meaning that neither Zoom nor external organisations can access our video calls during our sessions, and no data or recording is held afterwards of what we have discussed. Zoom can even be used for secure telephone counselling with the video just not being turned on! It might be useful to discuss video conferencing platform options with your therapist to make sure you are comfortable with what is being used.

    3. Use encrypted email

If you are experiencing a situation where you are concerned about another person in your life having access to your data, encrypted email can be a solution which may support communicating with your therapist in a safe manner. I use Protonmail and if you set up a free account with this service, any emails sent between us will be encrypted at rest (whilst being stored) and in flight (whilst being sent). Encryption means that the information in messages are jumbled up so they are so they are unreadable to any other parties, meaning that the chance of any messages being intercepted are very low. If using a shared device, just be sure to logout after using Protonmail (or other encrypted email provider) and when using this service in a browser, if asked choose not to store your password within it and you can also clear your browser history.

    4. Be creative finding a private location

There can be many factors that affect how comfortable you feel speaking within the location you wish to engage in counselling from. Even if you have a private room available to you, thin walls might, for example, make you conscious of who can hear you. In this case, there are different, alternative options that might support you. For example, you could have your sessions in your car or you may be able to go for a walk whilst you talk with your therapist. Sometimes thinking creatively can mean that you find a comfortable space for your therapy that you hadn’t thought of before.

    5. Use headphones

Whether you have some Air Pods or retro headphones, these can help to eliminate anyone who is nearby hearing what your counsellor is saying. I always use these during therapy sessions so only I can hear what my clients are saying too! This can mean if anyone does overhear anything, they are only hearing half of the conversation and that it only makes so much sense. If you’re using bluetooth headphones be aware of what else your device might be connected to - for example, if you play music from your phone through Bluetooth speakers in your lounge, your phone could automatically connect to this when in range! To remedy this, you should be able to choose to ‘forget this device’ in your phone settings prior to your session.

    6. Use a white noise machine

I have invested in one of these recently and am very impressed! There are various machines available that are affordable and these are able to emit white noise (similar to the static you might hear on your television). This can help to make what is being discussed in the next room inaudible creating almost a shield of sound to interrupt this. I pop this outside my therapy room as an extra step whenever I have a session as reassurance our sessions are protected. As a bonus, many of these white noise machines have a variety of sounds including nature and fan sound effects which may also help soothe you to sleep!

    7. Put a note on the door

If you feel able to share that you are participating in counselling with those people that you live with, a gentle reminder to them such as putting a ‘please do not disturb’ note on your door can minimise any interruptions that happen during your counselling sessions. This means you won't have someone intruding on your therapeutic space at what might be an important moment for you.

    8. Ask for space

Another way to help you feel comfortable within your therapy is to negotiate with those you live with that they will be out of your home (for example, they could plan to do their food shopping) during your counselling sessions. It can also be useful to ask them to send you a text if they need to come unexpectedly so you aren’t surprised by an interruption mid-session.

    9. Be aware of your surroundings whilst walking

If you decide that walking whilst speaking to your therapist during telephone counselling is preferable for you, it is important for you to be aware of who is around you and who can overhear you at any time. This is not always clear in residential areas so I would always suggest walking in a big open space (such as a local park) where you have good visibility of when people are approaching you and to let your therapist know when this happens so you can take a pause.

    10. Turn off smart devices

Many homes now have smart devices using technology such as Siri or Alexa. Ensuring that you turn these off or unplug them before a session can mean that you don’t unexpectedly call the person you might be talking about during a session because the device interprets what you’re saying as an instruction to do so. This also safeguards you against any potential data security issues.

This might seem like quite a few things to think about, however, as a counsellor trained in online and telephone counselling, I think these are important points to highlight so you can make an informed decision about how you can protect your privacy. For clients that choose to work with me I will guide you through each of these decisions and help you find what feels most supportive for you.

We are all different - you may choose to be particularly diligent and this may feel appropriate to your situation or you may be feel more comfortable with less measures in place. There is no right or wrong. Ultimately it’s about what makes you feel comfortable and supported within your therapy journey and for your therapist to feel confident that your work together is ethical and conducted safely.


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Hamilton Sargent is a BACP accredited person-centred pluralistic counsellor, having graduated from a 4 year degree level training programme. He also completed a specialist certificate in online and telephone counselling.

Hamilton offers face to face therapy in Clapham SW4, Chiswick W4, and online and telephone counselling for adults in the UK within his private practice. Alongside this he is an Academic Lecturer on the BSc (Hons) Person-Centered Pluralistic Counselling (Advanced Practitioner) programme at Metanoia Institute and is a published author.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that information and guidance around counselling may develop and change over time and may only be correct at the time of publication. I also cannot take responsibility for any independent resources mentioned and encourage you to do your own research if using any of these services.