Can Art Therapists Work Online?
If you are an Art Therapist, Art Psychotherapist, or Integrative Arts Psychotherapist, your training will have been entirely focused on working with clients in the room. The pandemic changed all that, and we were all suddenly flung into working online. Up until then (or perhaps still now), you may have received little or no training on online matters, such as what should be on your website, and how to manage social media as a therapist.
As well as being a UKCP registered Integrative Arts Psychotherapist, and an HCPC registered Art Psychotherapist, I also have a Diploma in Online Therapy, and a diploma in Online Supervision too. I’d like to share a few tips here with you. I also recommend you read my chapter ‘Online Integrative Arts Psychotherapy’ which goes into more detail about how I work online with clients. This chapter can be found in the book ‘Integrative Arts Psychotherapy’ by Claire Louise Vaculik and Gary Nash (eds.) (Routledge, 2022).Useful information for Art Therapists who are starting to work online Click To Tweet
Eight Important Things to Consider Before Offering Online Therapy:
1) Professional Indemnity Insurance
Are you fully insured to work online? Most psychotherapy and counselling insurers cover online working, but some policies may not, so if you’re unsure, give them a call, or check their website, and ask about any restrictions they may have. Also: one important thing to know is that insurers in the UK are unlikely to cover you to work with a client who is in the USA or Canada, as each State has its own legal guidelines regarding who can work with their residents.
2) What Platform to Use
For video therapy, there are many options. Choose a platform that has really good security and doesn’t send information anywhere else — many therapists use Zoom. FaceTime has recently been recommended to me as a suitable option for online therapy (if both therapist and client happen to have an Apple device). Always make sure everything is password-protected, and update software and hardware regularly. Please note that things change fast, so a platform that was considered suitable for therapy a week ago may not now be recommended. Check the ACTO website for information.
Privacy is, of course, extremely important. You’ll need to know you cannot be overheard or overlooked, and that your client has sufficient privacy on their end too. No-one else should be able to walk in or through the room, and interruptions should be avoided or planned for, just like in a normal face-to-face (f2f) session.
4) Safety and Risk
Who would you be willing to work with online? What would you do if you were concerned about your online client’s safety? What if they suddenly had a severe asthma attack or a seizure, or said they planned to harm themselves? Think through what you would do with an in-person (f2f) client, and consider whether anything would be different when working remotely. You should always know your client’s location (exact address where they are having the session). If the client is in a different country, educate yourself about how you would alert their local emergency services if you needed to. Discuss potential risk issues with your supervisor. If you would like some help thinking about risk, an extensive risk assessment checklist is provided in my e-book (see below for details).
5) Contracting with Clients
Just as with in-person therapy, there needs to be clear contracting. This should include details such as exactly what you’ll do if the Wi-Fi signal is lost, what a client should know about working online with you, how to pay, etc. If you would like to see my own intake contract for online clients, it’s now included as a free bonus with my e-book. You could use my contract as a template to help you create your own individualised client contract.
Is your supervisor familiar with online working? Ideally you’d have a supervisor who has extensive experience in working with clients online (not just supervisees) and who has a certificate or diploma in online therapy and/or supervision. I offer supervision to Integrative Arts Psychotherapists, Art Therapists and Psychotherapists; you can read more here.
7) Ethical Issues
“The only way is ethics”, as they say… Just as with face-to-face therapy, you need to be very familiar with the ethical code that you are working under. And one extra thing you need to be very aware of, when offering online therapy, is something called the ‘online disinhibition effect’. Basically, there’s a real possibility that we and our clients may say or do things that we/they wouldn’t normally say or do. Clients may open up more quickly than they would in a face-to-face session. This could be helpful or unhelpful, depending on circumstances (obviously we don’t want anyone getting flooded with too much trauma material too soon, causing retraumatisation). And therapists may slip more easily into sticky boundary issues (this is one reason it’s good to have a supervisor who’s trained in online working and is alert to this possibility).
8) Arranging Your Space
You’ll need to think carefully about how to physically arrange the space where you’ll be working. Lighting, positioning, and background are all important. Consistency is crucial, just as it is when seeing clients in the therapy room. And make sure you have to hand everything you’ll need during the session (see my Online Therapist’s Daily Checklist for ideas).
What Else Do Art Therapists Need to Know About Working Online?
The information above (‘Eight Important Things to Consider’) may be enough to start you off. And for further good, solid information about online therapy, you may be interested in my e-book, ‘Online Therapy: An Introductory Guide for Art Psychotherapists’. It’s available along with two (new) free bonuses: a sample client contract for you to adapt and use, and a comprehensive information sheet for working online as a therapist.
The e-book is designed to help you think about some of the particular aspects of delivering therapy online. It includes a very thorough and detailed risk assessment checklist, and a good deal of useful, practical information about working as a therapist online. It doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail about working with the arts online, although some useful ideas are offered.Can Art Therapists work with clients online? #ArtTherapy Click To Tweet
What You’ll Learn From the E-Book
This e-book covers the basics, including:
- Different options and platforms you can use for online therapy
- An introduction to the legal & ethical issues you must consider
- Extensive risk assessment checklist to go through before you start seeing clients online
- What you need to include in your Client Contract
- Ideas of some ways to work creatively in online therapy
- How to find out more about working online
… And What This E-Book Won’t Teach You
There are a quite a few things this e-book won’t teach you:
- This e-book won’t teach you how to be an Art Therapist, psychotherapist or counsellor (it is expected that you’ve already completed your full training, and that you engage in ongoing Continuing Professional Development).
- This e-book won’t teach you how to make an online therapy session the same as an in-the-room Art Therapy session (as you can probably guess, that’s just not possible)
- This e-book won’t teach you specifically how to work online with child clients, with groups or couples, or with anyone who struggles with the basics of using a computer.
An e-book is not equivalent to a full training
Although it is packed with practical information (at a fraction of the price of a CPD event or training), this e-book is not intended to be a substitute for a fully comprehensive interactive training in online counselling and therapy. The e-book is UK-oriented, but much of the information applies wherever you are in the world. I’m trained, accredited and based in the UK, so please bear in mind that the information given may need to be adapted if you are outside the UK, in accordance with your national or State legislation.
Access the E-Book, the Sample Client Contract and the Working Online Information Sheet
If you have a PayPal account, you can get access for £9.99 by clicking on the link below.
Please note: the e-book is viewable via a web page and also as a downloadable PDF. It is not currently downloadable to a Kindle.