The consistent questions I get from practitioners in the UK are these: which online platform should I choose? How do I know they have not only my best interests at heart, but those of my clients? How can I ensure my work is being conducted over a platform that isn’t just secure and has a strong base in the ethical needs of my profession, but also one that is user-friendly and intuitive? And, most frequently – what is the best alternative to Skype??
In my 15+ year career in this field, I’ve seen many platforms come and go. I’ve seen them start out promising to offer all the modalities we need, but who end up focusing on a narrow range. I’ve seen funding collapse, seen the developers get bored, seen them move into areas of “practice” that simply aren’t in our clients’ best interest. I’ve been genuinely excited by a few, but disappointed once I’ve drilled into the background and ethical stance of the owners. Frankly, it’s been a long haul…
Developing a platform for effective and ethical online services takes time, dedication, and a large amount of financial investment. At the Online Therapy Institute, we help our students develop services both as a private practice and as larger organisational in-house projects – and we applaud the results. But where is the holy grail of e-clinics?! How do you, as an ethically practicing counsellor, therapist, coach, or other kind of change-agent, choose a platform that you can trust won’t collapse or turn into something else entirely? How do you know that the platform is on your side, and, moreover – your client’s side?
I’ve kept a careful eye on PlusGuidance since I first met them at OCTIA in 2012. I’ve had meetings with them, advised them occasionally on ethics, and talked to them about not only what the client needs in a digital world, but also what the practitioner needs. They have listened carefully to what I have told them from my experience and expertise, have taken the training side of being an online practitioner seriously, and worked out how to thrive in an often complicated market.
Put simply, I’ve grown to trust the PlusGuidance team, and in particular the CEO Nathaniel Smithies. I’ve met many entrepreneurial CEOs in my time, but very rarely have I met one whose passion for mental health is so evident, or indeed who is willing to put his own background in mental health issues “out there” (watch Nat’s video about this here). I wouldn’t want to work with someone who doesn’t put the customer first, or someone who doesn’t recognise the sea-change that our profession is going through and want to help pioneer it to ensure the best for both clients and counsellors.
So I’ve decided to put my virtual money where my mouth is. I’ve chosen to work closely with PlusGuidance as their professional ambassador to ensure that we finally have a platform that is working for us and our clients. To create a viable alternative to Skype, PlusGuidance has made the platform free. To help you choose a training company for your CPD, we’re going to include free basic training resources – in ethics, theory, and practice – from within the platform for all PlusGuidance users as standard. There will be an online directory for all qualified practitioners, and enhanced entries for those trained in working online. We are working on better information being available on what geographical regions you can accept clients from, and in particular those countries where extra care is needed. And of course, all modalities within the platform – text, audio and video – are encrypted and HIPAA compliant, as future modalities will be as technologies develop. I’ll even be on hand to chat live with you about online clinical practice issues!
These elements are just the start of my mission for there to be one platform we can all use safely and reliably – one that finally answers the question “which platform do I use?” I’m very happy to have found the answer at last and to be working with PlusGuidance and Nat to continue to take the professions of counselling, psychotherapy and coaching forward.