Since face to face counselling is no longer an option during the pandemic, EAPs have turned to providing this service via all different electronic devices. These include telephone calls, various video conferencing softwares, WhatsApp and others. With this new way of working, there are benefits and also drawbacks. Ethical standards are to be maintained whilst new procedures are put into place.
EAPA-SA’s EduWeb webinar on 6th November 2020 was invaluable in covering different aspects and insights on e-counselling’s ethical considerations, where seven industry specialists – including representatives from EA service providers, statutory bodies and the DPSA – each had 10 minutes to present followed by a Q&A session, discussing the pros and cons of this mode of counselling, as well the ethical considerations of this electronic version of the counselling service.
The panellists were:
- Navlika Ratangee – Clinical Operations Director, ICAS South Africa
- Nevania Naidoo – Director of Employee Wellness, Workforce Healthcare
- Safia Joseph – Project Manager and Clinical Affiliate, Careways Wellness, KZN
- Dr. Fundile Nyati – CEO, Proactive Health Solutions
- Mr. Michael Batley – Chair of Ethics Portfolio, SAASWIPP Representative
- Ms. Ida Strydom – Deputy Chairperson: Professional Board for Social Work, SACSSP
- Ms. Yoliswa Makhasi – Director General of the Department of Public Service and Administration (represented by Mr Nyiko Mbanda)
- Dr Pravesh Bhoodram – EAPA Board member and Webinar host
Navlika Ratangee had this to say, “Virtual counselling is here to stay. It is best that we understand all of the implications inherent in this mode of counselling, so that we can work collectively towards building the efficacy of this modality and benefit from all its conveniences. It requires a skilled practitioner, just like telephone counselling requires a honing of particular skills. These implications range from security concerns, data capturing issues, the virtual environment and the virtual therapeutic context, to the rules of virtual engagement.”
In her presentation, Nevania Naidoo commented that while e-counselling will prevail, it is still essential for EAPs to stick to the basic fundamentals of EAP practice: Being a registered practitioner, competency, experience, practicing within the scope of one’s expertise, having up-to-date indemnity insurance, maintaining CPD points, utilizing a professional network to refer clients with contraindications and keep professional boundaries.
In his presentation, Dr Fundile Nyathi, Founder and CEO of PHS expressed the opinion that the coronavirus pandemic accelerating the need for the adoption of ICT in EA counselling has been the best thing to happen to the industry in 20 years – and that counselling professional should be flexible enough to offer a variety of counselling modality choices.
Safia Joseph, Project Manager and Clinical Affiliate at Careways Wellness provided valuable definitions of e-counselling and expressed how in this Internet-focused world e-counselling is a contemporary issue of some importance for the future of EA with technology outpacing the industry’s understanding of how to use it.
Ida Strydom, Deputy Chairperson: Professional Board for Social Work, SACSSP, brought to our attention how by April 2020 SACSSP had already developed interim ethical guidelines for social workers in South Africa regarding technology-supported social work services – or e-social work.
Michael Batley, Chair of Ethics Portfolio, SAASWIPP Representative, spoke about character ethics as they pertain to counselling, particularly from a psychological perspective. These are the professional care qualities that should be cultivated by an EA practitioner in the South African context. In the US the character virtues essential in a counsellor are seen as: practical wisdom, integrity, respectfulness, trustworthiness, compassion and care.
Attendees were honoured to be addressed by a representative from the Director General’s office of the DPSA, Mr Nyiko Mbanda, and as acknowledged by EAPA-SA Board member webinar host, Dr Pravesh Bhoodram, the Association looks forward to ongoing dialogue and collaboration with them in the future.
A lively Q&A session followed, where Dr Bhoodram, put a number of attendee questions to the panellists, to which they brought excellent additional insights, showing once again that in EduWeb webinars the post-presentation Q&A session is every bit as valuable and insightful as the presentations themselves. It also showed that the complex topic of ethical standards around e-counselling is a vast and important topic that deserves further seminar-time to delve into this matter in even greater detail.
Request a rebroadcast of this webinar, along with its information-rich slide presentations here.