Episode 7: Lawrence Murphy – foundations of cyber counselling

In this episode, I’m so excited to bring you Lawrence Murphy, a pioneer in cyber counselling in Canada. Together, we explore the foundations of cyber counselling, what an organization really needs to think about before moving into this space, why it’s just as effective for clients (but, not all clients), and some future trends in online counselling/services.

If you’re wondering if this whole online services, ecounselling thing is new, maybe kind of a fad, you’ll want to listen to Lawrence. He and his colleagues bring twenty two years of experience in online counselling to our conversation.

It’s grounding. It’s useful if you’re already providing online services (You are. Yes. You already are, deal with it), or if you’re thinking of setting up more formal online services.

He recommends a focus on ethics, standards, policies and procedures when getting up and running. Make sure that in your planning there’s an emphasis on privacy, security and confidentiality, both in terms of the technology tools, but also their use. As well, recognize that you may need some new skill development in the space, not just with the tools, but also with the approach to counselling online.

It’s a huge opportunity, but it’s not for all clients OR workers. It’s an effective way of doing work. It’s as effective as face-to-face counselling. Yes, you can create a therapeutic connection with clients that is as good, as effective as face-to-face.

Lawrence also spends a good chunk of time talking about organizational liability when it come to online tools, and how it is different from in-person work. Lots of great anecdotal and evidence-based information. Much to learn.

Lawrence also spends some time talking about current trends in online counselling, and where the field is going: “It’s not the future, it’s the present. Most EAP programs in Canada already offer cyber counselling options.” He sees better encrypted video in the future, as one important trend.

As well, artificial intelligence will play an increasing role in counselling. In 10 years, you’ll have software that will be able to work with people on a host of issues, such as intake, and even basic counselling. Chatbots are already automating rote interactions, even those as complex as legal aid for refugees seeking asylum in Canada.

At a Mental Health Commission of Canada one-day meeting on eHealth, Lawrence says a speaker challenged practitioners: “In ten years, we will need to decide what is the place of the human in your agency. Right now we’re trying to figure out what is the place of the computer in our agency. But, a decade from now, it will be, ‘why do you have a person doing that?’ That will become the new question.”

Clearly, there will be a role for us humans. But, it’s food for thought we need to be considering now.

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