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Email Counselling FAQs

What is email counselling?

The fundamental principles of email counselling are the same as face to face counselling – but utilise a different medium. Email counselling is available to all students. It has the same overall aim as face-to-face counselling – ie to help ‘develop and fulfil personal and academic potential’. The email counsellors work to the same Code of Ethics, the same confidentiality guidelines (as far as can be expected with a computer-based system of communication) and deal with similar issues as in face to face counselling.

Who are the email counsellors?

We are professionally trained therapists from the Counselling and Psychology Interventions Team. In addition, online counsellors have certificates from leading online facilitators such as Jane Evans (OCTC) and Kate Anthony (Online Therapy Institute). Online trainee counsellors receive regular supervision with qualified counsellors.

Who is the email counselling service for?

The email counselling service is exclusively for registered students of the University of Warwick who are otherwise entitled to use the Counselling and Psychology Service, but who would prefer the opportunity of counselling via email. NB For students who want specific advice on any matters practical, personal or emotional - you can contact Student Union Advice and Welfare, or Wellbeing Support:

For students who are suicidal, psychotic, or excessive users of non-prescribed drugs or alcohol, email counselling is not appropriate. If your issues seem urgent and require immediate attention, see the list of resources, contacts and information links.

How does email counselling work?

Counselling via email can be helpful as a different way of expressing your self and describing your issues. Through writing out your email - up to 500 words - you can get a clearer understanding of your concerns so you can make choices or changes, as necessary. As with face-to-face counselling, email counselling is not about advising you what to do, but can prompt you to think about what you are doing and so develop your own thinking. Occasionally the email counsellor may suggest web links for you to get more information.

Once you have registered for email counselling, you can send in your first email whenever you choose, and a counsellor will contact you as soon as possible. During exceptionally busy periods it may be a while before you receive your first reply, but we will always contact you within three weeks. Once you are exchanging emails with your counsellor, you will receive your reply on Thursday, as long as your email is received before 10.00am on the Thursday morning. For example, you might send your email at 8pm on Saturday evening and your counsellor will respond on the following Thursday.

NB it is not a synchronous system so emails are not read and replied to immediately. You may choose to space your emails over a number of weeks, but if you choose to not reply for a period of four weeks, it will be assumed that you no longer wish to continue. You can re-register at a later date to re-start if necessary.

What about email counselling during vacation times?

You can register at any time throughout the year; the service continues over vacation times but its availability may be limited. A counsellor will contact you as soon as possible once you have written in; you will always hear from us within three weeks. Once you are exchanging emails, your counsellor will keep you informed of any dates when they may not be available (for example, if they may be taking leave) so you can plan your own email counselling schedule. Most people find this works well for them.

How long can I have email counselling?

When you have written and received 5 replies, the email counsellor will invite you to summarise what you have learnt from the process, ask you to review what is working well, and encourage you to think about whether you are ready to work towards an ending, or whether you would like to proceed with a further 5 emails. Often this sort of evaluation can help you to get the most from your email counselling exchanges.

What about confidentiality?

To secure more privacy in your emails, we recommend you use your Warwick email address as we can't guarantee the security and privacy offered by other email accounts.

To uphold the policy of confidentiality, no information is recorded on any central student records. When you register for email counselling, you will be asked for a telephone number in case we need to contact you by phone (only in an urgent situation); your student identity number which will be used to check identity if necessary or to carry out random authentication checks (to ensure only students officially registered with Warwick University and entitled to use the service are registering for email counselling). Once you are undertaking email counselling, email folders are opened to store your emails and all replies accessible by the email counsellors only in password-protected files. At the end of each academic year, email folders are archived (unless counselling is continuing). To ensure good professional email counselling practice, any emails sent into the email counselling service may possibly be looked over and read by one of the email counsellors at any time (ie not just on the allocated Thursdays) but this is not part of ongoing regular procedures.

What if I need urgent help or support?

Any emails submitted are responded to each subsequent Thursday. If you feel you need a more immediate response, you may like to consider accessing a different source of support. You may want to contact NHS Direct for information or your GP surgery (they will have an out of hours service if required) or get in touch with the Samaritans who offer a 24/7 listening service. For any on-campus emergency situations, contact security on 02476 522083.

What about technological problems?

Email counselling is, by definition, reliant on computer technology. The email counsellors use the Warwick University IT systems. In the event of system failure either within the Warwick University system or locally to the Counselling and Psychology Interventions Team, the counsellors will endeavour to keep you informed as appropriate. If you experience technical difficulties (system or computer/network failure), it is important to keep us informed as appropriate (voicemail messages can be left on the telephone system after office hours 02476 577570).

How can I have my say about the University Email Counselling Service?

We continually evaluate what we offer and make improvements where possible so that the Service meets the needs of its users. To this end, when you finish email counselling you will be sent an online questionnaire to complete. You are asked to consider aspects of the email counselling service such the usefulness of your counselling experience. Verbatim responses are included in the report but are not attributed to individuals and are anonymous. All reasonable suggestions for improvement will be considered and your feedback about this service is welcomed.

What if I have further questions about the email counselling service?

If you have any other questions or concerns about the email counselling service, please call us 02476 575570 or call in to Wellbeing Support Services on the ground floor of Senate House during office hours.

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It is a good way to receive help for those who are shy or are better at writing down what they feel.

The sessions had helped me to self-evaluate better (or at all), and I discovered something about myself that I was not quite ready to express, but will likely do in the future when I feel ready.They gave small chunks of advice every week to make it easy to focus on one thing at a time, and always responded in a way that showed they were "listening" to the problems I spoke about."

I had always thought of email counselling as a lighter version of face-to-face counselling, but in fact it was just a different form.

My counsellor and I worked through issues systematically, and it really helped to understand how they were all linked. I still review the emails in times of need, and overall feel more in control over my relationships and actions now."

I was able to talk about feelings that had been bothering me for a long time, which I had never felt able to do before.

Because I do not know who the person is, it makes it easy to write down whatever I’ve been thinking and wish to talk about without the fear of their perception of me being changed, or being judged

I would say that it is a very good solution to
those who feel that they may not be able to express themselves as well in a face to face environment"

I liked the fact that emailing allowed you to respond to your counsellor in your own time"

Email counselling was extremely helpful for me in expressing feelings I did not have the courage to express in person. It has helped me opening up and that has allowed me to recognise feelings I did not even realise I was holding in."

the cousellor is very understanding and helpful in that he/she will reccommend resources to help you better yourself"

It was a good way to release some thoughts"

I've tried face to face counselling before, but
I felt too embarrassed with how emotional I became and it stopped me from
wanting to open up. Email counselling allowed me the space to say everything I
want to say in full.

quotes taken from the evaluation questionnaire responses