Announcements Blog

Volunteers wanted

We have been listening to you and we would like to give the members more input. Over the next two months the website will be completely overhauled by a professional designer. We want to do this well, so we are forming a small website working group. It will be headed up by me, the webmaster. It will include a few of your directors but we would also like to include some members.

Tasks would include:

Go through the current web content and select what stays and what goes

Help to think of a menu structure to make it easier to find your way around the website

Help setting the parameters for the new improved directories

Help thinking about images and new content for the website

Help thinking of what benefits we can add for members

If that appeals to you (It will involve several meetings with the working group and will take some hours of your time) and you want to help make the ACTO website better please email me at as soon as possible.


Mind joins ACTO as charity grows its online therapy services

As client & counsellor needs change, the Mind network seeks to develop its digital capacity, accessing ACTO’s ethical framework and standards

ACTO, the Association for Counselling and Online Therapy, is delighted to announce that Mind are one of the organisation’s newest organisational members.

Mind is a federated network across England & Wales made up of over 115 local mental health charities. Many of the local Minds deliver counselling services, either as part of a local offer such as IAPT or independently of statutory services and specialist counselling to equalities groups.

During the pandemic, local organisations within the Mind network reported an increase in need, as well as observing that the requirements of clients and counsellors were changing too. The necessity to deliver counselling remotely, either using telephone counselling or online video therapy sessions, resulted in Mind to evaluate how to increase its digital capacity whilst maintaining and developing standards, working within a clear ethical framework.

Gavin Atkins, Head of Communities for the national MIND network, says: “Many of our local Minds deliver important mental health support, all of which depends on the need of the community they serve. For example, this could include peer support, psychoeducation groups, social prescribing and group activities. 

“The Covid19 pandemic and restrictions meant that we needed to grow our online therapy services, so that our services are more inclusive – for example making sure that our services can better help people from different racial backgrounds – we know therapy is often inaccessible and so there is a need for more culturally appropriate support. What helps people manage their mental health varies from person to person, and we know that online therapy services do not suit everyone; which is why we will continue to offer face-to-face therapy and counselling, especially for people experiencing serious mental health problems (SMI’s).

“Online therapy does bring many benefits, including helping to reduce waiting times and make sure people get the support they need. That is why we decided to join ACTO. ACTO provides us with a nationally respected ethical framework and standards that the local mind network feels are vitally important when delivering a quality service.”

Adrian Rhodes, Chair of ACTO said, “ACTO is proud to welcome Mind into our growing membership. This year has been an incredible challenge for many people – and of course the superb organisations such as Mind who work tirelessly to help people with mental health needs. Almost overnight, counsellors and therapists have had to turn to new ways of supporting their clients, and many have embraced the opportunities offered by working online.

“We look forward to working with members of the Mind federated network, providing them with access to ACTO’s ethical standards and recognised training providers, upskilling their staff and thereby increasing service users confidence.”


ACTO is the Association for Counselling and Therapy Online. Membership is open to qualified professional counsellors, psychotherapists, counselling psychologists and CBT therapists registered with BACP, UKCP, BPS, BABCP or similar organisations.

Photo: Gavin Atkins, Head of Communications, Mind


OLT4c joins ACTO as a new Online Training Provider

OLT4C is one of our profession’s longest established online training providers. ACTO is delighted to welcome the organisation as an Online Training Provider.

One of the principal aims of ACTO is to ensure that it fully represents the rich diversity within our growing profession. We are therefore extremely pleased to confirm that OLT4C, widely recognised for the excellence of its provision of professional training in Online Therapeutic practice, is our newest Online Training Provider.

Suzie Mosson and Maria O’Brien are co-directors of OLT4C and describe the values inherent in their organisation:

“At the core of OLT4C is an ethos that ensures all students regardless of experience and/or academic achievement will step into a learning environment which is rooted in the principles of warmth, encouragement and compassion. We strongly believe that these principles are pivotal to empowering students to develop a crucial understanding of the knowledge, skills and awareness required for safe, legal and ethical online practice.

“Along with this, we are a warm and friendly group that values each student and their contributions.”

OLT4C offers an extensive range of CPCAB externally accredited professional training courses starting with, General Certificate in Online Counselling Skills, A Diploma in Online Counselling and a level 6 Diploma in Online Therapeutic Supervision. In addition,

they have various CPD courses, independent study workshops and regularly develop bespoke pieces of training for small, medium and large corporate organisations.

In their joint statement announcing the decision to join ACTO, Suzie and Maria explained how online training can help practitioners to work online safely and confidently:

“One of the challenges we have faced and overcome is the idea that working online means working via video only. We recognise that the increase in this understanding is likely to have been informed by the initial guidance from counselling membership bodies in how to support clients during the early days of the global health crisis. The message then was, where possible therapists could offer to support existing face to face clients online until the therapy ended. In a bid to replicate the face-to-face counselling environment, hence they chose to work via videoconferencing.

“Thankfully, many therapists realise that working online without specific training is outside their limit of competence which raises questions around ethical practice. In a bid to bridge this gap they have sought externally validated training to develop their perception, comprehension, and prowess of this different discipline. OLT4C is well placed to meet these needs and as members of ACTO, we are demonstrating our transparency and responsibility as members of the national register.”

Adrian Rhodes, Chair of ACTO, said:

“ACTO values the contributions from every single individual member – and that includes the work of our Online Training Providers. We know that OLT4C has a very clear understanding and commitment to ensuring that counsellors, therapists and supervisors are trained, skilled and therefore able to treat their clients ethically and respectfully.

“We are grateful and honoured to have OLT4C on board as part of our growing organisation and look forward to the OLT4C team helping us to develop further services that meet the needs of online counsellors and therapists.”


Maintaining boundaries when working online

As we have all been getting used to working online over the last few months, I have been conscious of a renewed focus that has been needed to create and maintain robust boundaries with our clients.  Particularly given that for most of us this is new way of connecting with our clients.

We tend to take for granted the control we have over the counselling environment.  Whether we work in an office away from our homes, or in a dedicated therapy space at home, we have full choice over what the space looks like, the ‘feel’ we wish to convey to help our clients feel safe, who and when someone enters this space, and when the session is ended.

Whereas, meeting our clients online means conducting sessions in their space, their homes, with no control over the room they choose to be in, and reduced influence over the potential for interruptions.  We have limited control over technological glitches that may interrupt or prematurely end the session, while we do have control over the online communication platform that is used to hold the sessions on.  Meaning we can maintain boundaries regarding the client’s data security and online confidentiality.  

When technological issues arise, it is vital to have clearly set out in your contracting what you will do to try and reconnect, and if this is not possible, what alternative communication you will use to continue the session or rearrange.  Knowing this process, along with your calm response in the moment, will help the client feel confident and safe with you. They will know that you are maintaining the boundaries through the clarity in how you will deal with the situation, and your firmness with time boundaries.  It may be tempting to go over time to compensate for a technological problem that has arisen, while this pushes a boundary and sets a precedent that may be always be possible to repeat in the future.

The importance of remaining firm with your boundaries is further illustrated by the range of possible interruptions that can occur when the client is in their own home.  From a child or partner entering and staying in the room, to a parent wanting to ‘meet’ the counsellor uninvited.  Whatever the client says in terms of them being ok with the child or partner staying in the room, it is important to explain the reason for, and role of, confidentiality.  I have spoken to counsellors who struggled to convey this firmly as the client was in ‘their’ home and so they felt that it is the client’s choice who is in the room.  Explained clearly, the client will understand, and is often relieved at having a professional state on their behalf, what the boundaries are.

When you first entered your counselling room, I would guess that you spent time creating a therapy space that conveys a sense of safety, calm, professionalism, and security.  A space where they can metaphorically leave their stories, traumas, and feelings in when they leave the session.  Thus, creating a safety boundary to support the client to disclose and explore painful experiences and feelings.  I often tell my clients that there is a bottomless pit in the space between us, for everything to go into.  This is a double message; that they can leave behind what they have disclosed and shared in the room, and a self-care message to myself, that I do not expect to be left holding onto all my clients feelings and traumatic experiences.

This self-care message is even more vital now we are all working from home and may be doing so for some time.  You may now be working from a room previously delegated as a social or family space.  So, have been considering how to maintain physical boundaries, of no interruptions; and the emotional boundaries, by working out a process to step out of your counsellor persona into your private one as you walk out of the room.

This heightens the importance of discussing with your client what they will do immediately after the session to create a boundary between their counselling and the rest of their lives. Will they need time to process, and shift their emotions before able to re-join their family?  Is this time available, or will they be expected to end the session and walk straight back into family life?

Working online reveals boundaries considerations for both the client and counsellor that do not arise when working within your own therapy space.  By taking time to consider what they are and discussing them in your contracting will ensure that you both have clarity when responding boundary challenges.  Which will help create a safe, secure space for your clients, and support your self-care when working from home.

Sarah Worley-James

This was first published in the BACP Cyberwork column 


Counselling Online In A Pandemic World – Emma West

We are proud to present the blog post that won the blog competition.

There’s no doubt that those trained in online counselling were ahead of the curve when we entered the eerie world of Covid-19 lockdown.  

Suddenly face to face counsellors were struggling with the practicalities of working online – “What’s Zoom?”, “How will my clients pay?”, “What’s online disinhibition?”….  

On top of sorting the practicalities they were also having to embrace the possibility that online counselling is actually just as valid, and effective, as face to face work, if not more so for some people.

But there was no time for prolonged smugness on my part because when lockdown kicked in the private online practice I’d been building up took off and I had clients coming at me via ACTO, E-therapy, Psychology Today, and word of mouth too.

Whilst previously I’d always had space for new clients I was now in the new territory of working out how many clients I could feasibly ‘see’ each week.  

It was actually quite a tricky conundrum because initially I found that a lot of people just wanted one session – they wanted to know that it wasn’t just them that was struggling, they wanted to hear that other people were finding things difficult too.  The issues of control, loss of routine, uncertainty, unpredictability abounded, but once their experience had been normalised they were happy to go it alone once more.

Some turned into OAAT [one at a time] clients, with weeks and sometimes months between sessions.  They seemed to appreciate the ability to be able to reach out whenever they needed to.

There were also a number of people who grasped the opportunity of being at home and the flexibility of their working arrangements to give counselling a go – with threats of a mental health ‘epidemic’ hitting the headlines counselling was becoming even more acceptable, and online counselling was their only option.

Many were new to the idea of counselling so initial work was often around managing expectations – what did they think counselling was – advice vs finding their own answers vs a magic wand?!

So how can counsellors adapt in this brave new world?

  1. Decide what platform to use [then stick with it but review periodically]: 

At the start of lockdown there was a LOT of online chat about trying to find the ‘perfect’ online counselling platform.  I found myself getting very caught up in this, with fears of getting it ‘wrong’ and that eternal counsellor bugbear of not being ‘good enough’.  In the end I decided to put all the security I could in place and used Zoom.

  1. Decide how many clients you can work with [then learn to say no]:  

With clients coming at me from all directions I learnt to recognise when I had reached capacity.  It wasn’t easy turning people away but I would try to signpost them.  I knew this would mean I could work effectively with the clients I had, and practice self care too.

  1. Sell yourself:  

When face to face counsellors ‘moved’ online the competition for clients skyrocketed.  I found that when I updated my various profiles to say I had already done specialist online counselling training and had been practising solely as an online counsellor pre-lockdown that the number of enquiries I received increased.  How can you make yourself stand out from the crowd?

  1. Be flexible:   

I realise that many counsellors need to know they have a regular income stream and this usually means seeing clients weekly on the same day at the same time.  

I found that offering one-off, fortnightly, OAAT sessions and not stipulating that I’d need to see clients on the same day/time, enabled me to corner a market in terms of offering a flexible service to those who needed that flexibility.  To be honest it was a bit of a gamble but strangely it works, and I’ve had a steady stream of bookings over the months.

  1. Seek peer supervision [as well as your regular supervision]:  

Coincidently I set up a peer supervision arrangement with another ACTO member at the end of 2019.  Having those monthly meetings together with online peer support through Facebook has been invaluable – it can be a lonely world counselling online.  NB Pick your Facebook groups wisely and unjoin those that leave you feeling stressed and/or unsupported.

  1. Normalise:  

I think it is vital to normalise clients responses to the pandemic.  Feeling anxious or low about potential threats to our health and the ever-changing limitations imposed upon us is perfectly normal.  The big question is how can we effectively support clients to adjust, manage, and move forward?

7. Don’t claim to be Harry Potter.

Emma West

Accredited Counsellor MBACP:



As demand for online therapy grows, self-care has never been so important

ACTO members Jan Stiff and Sarah Worley-James offer some practical advice to therapists and counsellors coping with increased workloads and the complexities of added stress caused by moving from providing face to face to online therapy

Recently we shared to our Facebook page an article written by a therapist, Katerina, who is coming to terms with the significant increase in demand for moving to providing online therapy initiated by the recent COVID pandemic.

The issues raised in the article are of course extremely pertinent ones at this time. So, we thought we would share some of our observations, and some suggestions for online therapists and counsellors to help them with their own self-care.

Firstly it is good to see a blog published on this matter – and one which is openly spoken about. After all, like our clients, we too are human beings struggling with the myriad ways that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us personally, as well as professionally.

Let us now consider some of the points made by Katerina – and offer our thoughts.

  • The power of online therapy to enable a new kind of creativity, safety and emotional intimacy.

That sense of “power” that can be interesting for some but equally disarming and frightening for therapists without appropriate training, experience and online supervision.

  • The importance of therapists having their own space set aside for online therapy

Coping with everyday things such as eating and sleeping can be difficult if this is the same space that you undertake your online therapy.

The inappropriateness of not having a sacred space – set aside for online therapy – a space that is safe and confidential and that can be “walked away from” as if locking the office door –  can pose a challenge which then impinges negatively on a therapists life and personal space.

  • The feeling that our profession is not getting any recognition or support

This is a concern for many of us in the profession; comments have been made that therapists have been “forced” to provide online therapy. The increasing effects of COVID and what therapist have “had” to endure (they feel they have had little choice in most cases and need to continue to work to bring in money) are concerning – and is deserving of further debate.

  • Not having an opportunity to say goodbye to clients as a result of end of face-to-face contact

Again, the need for training and appropriate supervision comes to mind here – and the option for therapists to acknowledge that moving to providing online therapy might not be an option that they want to move towards. During support sessions for face to face therapists “forced” to move to working online  – mainly school counsellors – one message I [Jan] shared was that they knew the client best and they knew what they needed.

Also they, as that clients therapist had the autonomy to communicate their concerns with either the schools, training bodies or professional bodies to say that they did not feel competent to practice online if they did not feel it was benefiting their clients. For instance, many were “forced” to provide telephone support because that was deemed “safer” but of course, the lack of ability to make visual assessments caused great concern for some therapists – understandably so.

Within support sessions and teaching we share the following as a way of assessing your needs as a therapist, working online and face to face – it can highlight areas of concern that a therapist, especially one practicing online, might not be aware of.


Building resilience 

Research has shown that vicarious trauma within therapists is related to workload and support. Of course individual therapist resilience is also a part of this.

We love this and therapists that it has been have shared with have sometimes been left in awe with how this highlights individual self-care needs, blind spots and issues leading to burnout.

This website has some great info:


Fun activities are important too!

And finally there are some simple things too. Fun activities which can help us all to relax away from our work.

Finding those small moments in the day to take care of ourselves.

That cup of tea sipped whilst listening to relaxing music, a few minutes to colour in a colouring book, do a jigsaw, cook something new.  Encouragement to focus on noticing those small actions that give a message ‘I’m worth taking care of’.  Focusing on gaining a balance, which may look very different to the pre lockdown one, while appropriate to life right now.

All of these may help.

Jan Stiff, online counsellor and supervisor

Sarah Worley-James, online counsellor and supervisor


Looking back over my role within ACTO – Jan Stiff

I remember the first moment I was drawn into the “world” of ACTO and the Board of Directors.

I was already an ACTO member. Sarah Worley-James, who was then the ACTO Chair, gave a talk at an OCTIA conference explaining the purpose and aims of ACTO and asking that, if anyone were interested, they would be welcome to apply to become a Director

I remember feeling energised and interested after Sarah’s talk. That was the start!

At the time I was tutoring in the provision of online therapy as well as providing online supervision. I knew that online therapy was still viewed by many therapists as an “emerging” therapy and was “second best” to face to face therapy. I was still hearing therapists saying the words …

“… but it isn’t as good as face to face therapy is it!” and/or “ …it’s unsafe! – wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole!”

… and of course, it definitely won’t be successful or safe way if you “ … wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole!” You’d be likely to find that your clients wouldn’t either! I was keen to help change this pervasive message and it seemed that that ACTO’s aim was to do the same.

To cut a long story short I contacted Sarah and was welcomed into the Board. I  began to understand how warm and approachable “ACTO” was; It was not simply an organisation or those four capital  letters that people know so well … It was and is, so much more.

First steps – my passion for working with children and young people

My initial role was as Membership Director but, as membership levels increased this role became unsustainable and an administrator was required.

The role of CYP (Children and Young People) Director was then offered to me. I agreed with  a huge “YES, OF COURSE” – this is where my true passion lies; the mental health needs of children and young people and how remote therapy can be particularly effective especially when relating to working with shame-based issues. However, my knowledge and experience also informed me of the inherent complexities and, even, dangers of working with this age group in the absence of appropriate training and support for the therapist along with appropriate assessment of the young person’s needs.

If I have one regret it is that I was not able to achieve all that I would like to have achieved throughout the time I held as CYP Director. But I also know myself;  I don’t like waiting – I want to achieve everything now. (Not the healthiest of needs!) I do know that I can leave at this point when new, exciting developments are in progress when the present Board holds such a wealth of experience and information at its fingertips.

It is important to look at what has been achieved – along with my colleagues – within the Board, we have worked hard (often giving more hours than we could or should have spared) to achieve competences and guidelines. We have also worked hard to elevate the profile of ACTO and made changes to enable this to happen and, throughout this, the message that we were led by was “what is important for the members – what do they need?”.

Some final reflections…

If I could leave a gift to ACTO and the Board it would be the luxury of Time. Everyone has their own personal and work life commitments and brings themselves to ACTO on a voluntary basis and need to be respected for that.

I have loved my time as an ACTO Director – I have forged true friendships and have spent time with people with a shared passion. Shared knowledge and experiences have helped me in my professional development.

I am leaving with a heavy heart but hope to return in a couple of years. I can only hope that I have given as much as I have gained from my experience as a Director. If you are reading this and are interested or even energised by what I have said, then I strongly suggest that you put your name forward for a position on the BOD – everyone is an individual and, as such, will always bring something valuable to the table! You never know where it will take you … or ACTO!

Jan Stiff

ACTO board messages Announcements Blog

Looking for an exciting new opportunity?

Looking for an exciting new opportunity?

The world of online counselling and psychotherapy is changing – and you can help to shape it by joining our team of directors on the ACTO Board

ACTO is always on the look-out for talent and energy to join the Board of Directors. In recent months, our profession has seen significant changes with the huge growth in the practice of online psychotherapy and counselling. We are keen to support that development by broadening our team with new directors.

There are opportunities for members to join our Board as ‘Directors without portfolio’; however we are particularly in need of expertise in the following areas:-

A Director of Training – to help us:

  • improve our training standards;
  • support our Training Organisations;
  • encourage other online training organisations to join the ACTO family.

A Director for Inclusivity/Diversity, to:

  • help us decide what this director should be called!
  • champion issues of inclusion and diversity within ACTO;
  • disseminate awareness and understanding of inclusion and diversity in online work.

An International Director (or deputy)

  • this is a passion of our Chair – but he hasn’t sufficient time to manage it fully:
  • to bring the long-awaited International Directory to fruition, to develop and manage it;
  • to link in with the international organisations devoted to online work;
  • to develop a network of ACTO ‘chapters’ around the world.

If you are interested, please contact the Chair of ACTO at: for an informal chat.

Adrian M Rhodes

Chair, ACTO


It’s time to rethink the norms and face the new realities

ACTO patron Anne Stokes and champion of online therapy is challenging our profession to think differently

Over the years many of you will have heard of, listened to presentations at conferences, read books or articles by or indeed spoken to Anne Stokes. Anne is a passionate advocate of online counselling and psychotherapy and a practitioner of online work since the late 1990’s. Earlier this year, we were delighted when Anne accepted our invitation to become a patron of ACTO in recognition of her service to the profession.

Last month, you may have read about our plans to refresh our organisation for the challenges which lay ahead, as the online community grows to accommodate the environment, we now work in.

In July, I therefore invited Anne to give a presentation to the ACTO Board. Anne’s experience in the field of online psychotherapy and counselling is immense. Her book Online Supervision (Psychotherapy 2.0) is undoubtedly a must-read text for all online practitioners.  I wanted to give Anne the opportunity of challenging our organisation to embrace the new opportunities and help us to overcome the hurdles presented following the global pandemic. Since March, we have experienced significant membership growth in ACTO and of course thousands of psychotherapists and counsellors have migrated from face-to-face sessions to meeting with clients online.

I thought I would share one of the key points that Anne made: –

“The COVID-19 pandemic feels like it is a real watershed moment for the online counselling and therapy profession, turning our world upside down.

“In recent years, the number of therapists practising online has increased significantly. However, since March these numbers have grown exponentially. Many practitioners are now working online – because they have to. We need to respond to that, bringing people into our online community.

“For example, how are we going to ensure a consistently high quality of service to clients as those offering counselling and therapy online increases substantially? We must reach out to training providers and encourage people who may do things differently, whilst maintaining our ethical standards and values.”

Many of us have been working online for a period of time. Sometimes – given our enthusiasm and passion for online working – it can be difficult to understand the steep learning curve and issues facing other therapists who are new to this form of working. Our response must be inclusive and positive: supporting practitioners and those in the field of training, with the key objective of raising standards and ensuring the quality of our work.  

Anne’s contribution is timely. We have recently set ourselves new goals and aspirations to raise standards and encourage discussion and debate, as we welcome more members into our online community. Anne is encouraging us to do more – and to rethink how we do it.

Inspiring words. And words which we will translate into action.

Thank you, Anne.

Adrian M Rhodes

Chair, ACTO


New ACTO Chair aims to raise the standards of online therapy

It is easy to do therapy online; but it is difficult to do therapy online well,

Raising standards and making ACTO the go-to place for online counselling and psychotherapy. Those are the two principal goals of ACTO’s new Chair, Adrian Rhodes, who leads the volunteer Board of Directors with representatives from across the profession. And for Adrian, the new role comes at a time of fundamental change as the world adjusts to life during the Covid-19 pandemic, necessitating innovative ways of working for counsellors and psychotherapists.

The lockdown and the introduction of social distancing measures have resulted in a massive increase in the numbers of psychotherapists and counsellors seeking to work online. Earlier this year, ACTO responded by publishing security and privacy guidance for practitioners providing online therapy. However, further work is needed as practitioners and services adapt to the technology and ways of engaging with their clients.

Adrian, who qualified as a psychotherapist in the 1980s, worked as a psychotherapist in the NHS and is also an Honorary Canon in the Church of England, believes that the growth in practitioners and services working online is a positive response to the crisis; however, it offers fresh challenges too, to ensure that a high standard of quality is provided. As Chair, Adrian is committed to leading the organisation in this exciting, albeit challenging, new phase of its history.

ACTO is a body with a clear objective: to support counsellors and psychotherapists who work online. With 15 years’ experience, we believe that this knowledge and expertise is invaluable at the current time.

Clearly, the landscape that practitioners and training providers operate in has been transformed since the start of the pandemic. Since March, many psychotherapists and counsellors have started to work online, some with limited experience and training.  The need to equip our colleagues with the right skills and expertise is therefore urgent. It is easy to do therapy online; but it is difficult to do therapy online well.

ACTO priorities

To make these transformative changes, ACTO will build up its repository of resources and knowledge around online therapy. Furthermore, as an organisation we will drive up standards of practice and training, provide information about working internationally and improve access to key research.

The goal: for ACTO to be the ‘go-to’ place for discussion and debate for psychotherapists and counsellors.

ACTO provides a range of services to its members, including a directory for therapists and supervisors, forums for practitioners to discuss relevant issues and access to digital tools.

If you would like to enquire about joining ACTO or find out more regarding our work, please go to the ACTO website or get in touch.

Adrian M. Rhodes

Chair, ACTO