I get quite a few requests for anonymous counselling online, but when I tell people about my work as an online psychologist, they are often surprised that counselling can indeed be anonymous. I thought it might be time to explain the process a bit more…
Why do people choose anonymous counselling?
There are many reasons why my clients prefer to stay anonymous. Some are very shy and feel safer when staying anonymous. They open up more easily when knowing that I won’t be able to identify them. Especially when talking about difficult subjects, like sexual problems or other ‘taboos’. Anonymity as well as the physical distance between client and psychologist in online counselling can be very helpful. Many clients who choose anonymous counselling open up quite easily about those problems, once they know, that I won’t be able to identify them.
Another reason why people choose anonymous online counselling is to maintain the boundaries between the therapeutic space and their personal lives. As I am writing this, I am sitting in a café in Vietnam. My clients are in Europe, Asia or Africa, and it is very unlikely, that we will ever meet by accident. Back when I was working in a private practice or clinic back home, randomly meeting patients in the street or discovering that we have mutual acquaintances was a very common issue. Choosing to talk to a psychologist online eliminates this problem.
Finally, choosing anonymous counselling provides an additional layer of security and privacy. This is also true for those clients who do not wish for anyone to know about them talking to a psychologist. Some of my clients do not want their families or partners to know about the counselling. Others are cautious about future insurance or career options, as some of those will sadly not be open to people who have been in therapy. Reasons for choosing anonymous counselling are diverse, but the process is always the same.
How does anonymous counselling work?
Overall the counselling works just like any other online counselling. Potential clients contact me via email or the contact form on my website. To remain anonymous, some clients will set up a new email address that does not contain their name and isn’t linked to anything else that could identify them. I will ask those clients how they would like me to address them – this can be a fake name or simply initials, a first name without a last name etc. I have even talked to clients as “dear sir” without using any name in the past. Because, in the end, it really isn’t the name that is important in my work. It is the content of the emails and counselling sessions. So if staying anonymous helps you open up about your issues or feel comfortable, that is really all that matters. After the initial contact, I will send additional information about the process via email and we will decide together which way of counselling suits you best. For the highest degree of anonymity I would recommend counselling via email. We can also have appointments and only talk without using the video image. Some clients opt for a chat based appointment and turn off camera and microphone. For other clients, knowing that I don’t know their real name and which city they live in will be enough anonymity and they will choose the video chat sessions, where we can see and talk to each other.
Can this really work?
Yes! I have experienced it many times. Anonymity does not mean that you have to lie to me. On the contrary. It means that you can be open and honest about what is really going on in your life, without fear of being recognized. And let’s face it, anything else wouldn’t make any sense, would it? Why should you pay to talk to an expert and then lie to them? So if you are a bit wary about counselling, opting for anonymity could help you open up and face the real issues without distractions.