When I started working as a Psychologist the idea of online counselling in any form was a vision but not a reality. Over the last 15 years I’ve watched the counselling profession move with the times and consider the advantages of technology in broadening the availability and accessibility of counselling for their clients. Online counselling is quickly becoming a popular model of support, especially within the adolescent and young adult population. Key services like Lifeline, Kids helpline, Suicide call back service and headspace offer an online counselling service component to their service provision. There are numerous benefits to online services including increased accessibility for those studying via distance or off campus for placement or juggling work and study commitments and the convenience of having access to information on demand.

Earlier this year I started working with UON as their online counsellor. I was lucky that my predecessor had done all the leg work around the legal requirements and potential tools we could use to offer a suite of online resources for students here at UON. The UON online counselling service offers students three main modes of contact, online counsellor blog, drop-In times for access to a counsellor without appointments and individual online sessions.

Blogs are a great way to communicate with the students

The UON Online counsellor blog is where I am able to let students know about the issues they report are impacting on them. I talk about a number of different types of mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, stress and also suggest tips for changing their behaviour and experiences. I’m also able to review online resources and smartphone apps that they might find useful and provide them with links to resources which are freely available to all members of the community and resources, workshops and events that are specific to the UON community. The Blog can be used by students for self-help or in helping someone they are worried about, another student or a family member or friend.

The blog is just one way of accessing information and help around your wellbeing on campus. Students are able to use the Skype Drop-In times to chat with a counsellor four times a week. There is no limit on how often you can use this service and no appointment is necessary. Two of the times are offered outside of business hours to accommodate those students who are on placement, working, or in class during the business hour times. These times are great for those who would like some direction on how they can help themselves and work independently, are unsure of if they could benefit from help or would like to get some support in how they can help someone else.

If the blog isn’t enough and more than a one off Skype drop-in is needed then individual online counselling sessions are available. Individual appointments need an appointment which you can get via email. They are available either on Skype (either video chat or text messenger) or BlackBoard Instant Messenger (Text messenger only). Having this option for students has meant that students who are studying by distance, or are off campus doing a placement have had access to a counsellor. Students who are on the local campus can also use the online sessions as well – in fact there are a few that prefer it to face-to-face work.

All three services are available to students of UON regardless of program or mode of study. Staff members of UON might also find the Blog material helpful in either referring students to or in using the material themselves. You can subscribe to the blog and receive regular updates of information and resources around mental health and general strategies for success in life.