Email Counselling can be helpful if you want to take charge of when you choose to allocate time to exploring your concerns and it can be useful to write down your issues and see your own words so you can reflect on them, whenever you wish.
You can register and write in whenever suits you and you will receive a reply on a Thursday.
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 staff (and 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 counsellors from the University Counselling Service. In addition, online counsellors undergo specialised training and are certified 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 staff (and students) of the University of Warwick who are otherwise entitled to use the UCS, but who would prefer the opportunity of counselling via email.
NB It is not suitable for staff who may feel suicidal, psychotic, or are excessive users of non-prescribed drugs or alcohol. If your issues seem urgent and require immediate attention, see the list of resources, contacts and information links.
Why might I choose email counselling?
Email counselling can be useful to work with a range of issues, similar to face to face counselling. You might choose email counselling (instead of face-to-face counselling*) because:
- You can write your email and read the reply at a time convenient for you, without needing to commit to attend in person at a specific time.
- It gives you an opportunity to write down your issues and see your own words so you can reflect on them·
- You can read and re-read both what you are writing and what the counsellor is writing – at any time·
- It gives you an opportunity for counselling without having to meet someone face-to-face
- You can work in a ‘virtual counselling relationship’ which, although there are no verbal or visual clues, can be rewarding as you have to be explicit in putting words to your emotions – which can be therapeutic in itself
- It may be easier for practical reasons, such as if you are based away from the University, perhaps abroad.
*It is important to register for EITHER email counselling OR face-to-face counselling, as working with two counsellors at the same time can be counter-productive.
How does email counselling work?
Email counselling can be helpful as a different way of expressing your self and describing your issues. Through writing an email - up to 500 words approximately - 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.
You can send your email in to your counsellor whenever you choose (as long as it is received before 10.00am on the Thursday morning) and your counsellor will reply on Thursdays. 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. If you choose to not respond to the email sent by your email counsellor, you will be sent an email to check in with you and inviting you to write in if you wish, but if you choose to not reply after that, it will be assumed that you no longer wish to continue. You can re-register at a later date to re-start if necessary.
The email counselling service is available during term time and vacations (although not when the University is closed).
How long can I have email counselling?
Although there is no specific limit to the number of emails you can write in over the course of your time using the Email Counselling Service, when you have written in approximately 5 times, the counsellor may invite you to summarise what you are learning from the process, ask you to review what is working well, and encourage you to think how you may want to proceed and what you might want to focus on if you continue with email counselling. Often this sort of evaluation can help you to get the most from your email counselling exchanges.
How can I get started with email counselling?
- Decide email counselling is appropriate for you
- Click on the registration form (you need to be logged in) and check the agreement, so you know what you are signing up to
- Complete the online form and click 'send form' to submit
- If your form has submitted correctly, you will immediately see a message inviting you to write your first email. You can write approximately up to 500 words (including any attachments) - you can send in your first email straight away.
- You will receive a reply from your email counsellor the following Thursday (and each subsequent Thursday ) as long as your email is received before 10.00am on the Thursday morning.
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. However, it is possible to use a non-Warwick email address.
To uphold the policy of confidentiality, no information is recorded on any central staff records. When you register for email counselling, you will be asked for (In Case of Emergency) I.C.E. contact details and your Staff Identity number which will only be used to check identity if necessary or to carry out random authentication checks (to ensure only staff officially registered as working with the University of Warwick University use the Email Counselling). The registration form also asks for factual data (including gender, age, referral source, etc) and is used to compile anonymous statistics so the Counselling Service can monitor trends. Once you are undertaking email counselling, email folders are opened to store your emails and all replies accessible by the email counsellors only. 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 in to 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 - see the link to other resources for full details. 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 UCS (University Counselling Service), the counsellors will endeavour to keep you informed as appropriate. If you experience technological 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 523761).
How can I have my say about the University Email Counselling Service?
The University Counselling Service continually evaluates what it offers and makes 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 as the marketing, and the usefulness of your counselling experience. Each summer the responses are collated and used to inform any service development. Verbatim responses may be selected for use on the UCS website 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, send an email to the UCS general administration email address email@example.com or telephone the UCS on 02476 523761 or call in during office hours.
Writing down my state of mind and recent events
was something which was incredibly helpful for me. It gave me time to compose
my thoughts and I never felt pressured to write in; I carried on writing in
because it was helpful
Anonymity helped, and writing things down on my
own time worked better for me than face-to-face counselling would have
Lots of suggested strategies to try to help with
anxiety as well as a chance to think about root causes
It was good to be able to read back through the emails and do it at my own time. It suited me to not have to come in at a set time in the working week - I'm too busy for that.
Quotes from users of the University Email Counselling Serivce