As covered previously on SLOz, counselling in-world is a growing area and one that involves some contention. Tranquil Wellman, a counsellor from Australia and her business partner Transcend Wellman, agreed to a frank interview on the nature of counselling in SL and the challenges it poses.
Lowell: Can you tell me a little about your background as counsellors?
Transcend: I’ve been involved as a counsellor and coach for about 20 years. I use the human givens (HG) approach and a Reichian model called bioenergetics. HG is based on Ericksonian stuff and borrows from what is good about many other approaches including CBT
Lowell: And you, Tranquil?
Tranquil: I did my counselling training in 1992, earning a Diploma of Applied Jungian Psychology. I am qualified to work , in RL, using Jungian Dreamwork, Sandplay, Voice Dialogue, Active Imagination and also Rebirthing. Most of all though, I offer myself as a very good and empathetic, listener 🙂
Lowell: What led to you both setting up business in SL?
Transcend: Well, we met in other avatars and discovered a shared passion for psychology and also a large unmet need here in SL so we decided to establish a professional approach to online counselling.
Lowell: You say there’s a large need – can you define what you mean by that?
Transcend: Well, there are so many folk here in SL who experience the negative aspects of SL’s anonymity in relationships and many are very hurt by that. Many folk also come to SL to seek a way through their own life problems.
Tranquil: Behind every avatar there is a person who has brought to SL all their RL issues in some ways.
Lowell: What sort of issues do you primarily deal with in-world?
Transcend: In-world it is mostly relationship issues
Transcend: but sometimes more dramatic things.
Lowell: Are the issues with in-world relationships or RL relationships?
Transcend: Both in fact, but predominantly relationships based on SL contacts. The most dramatic thing I had was a guy who was going to commit suicide
Tranquil: Yes, mostly in-world, but both at times
Lowell: What are your thoughts on potential conflicts between RL and SL relationships?
Transcend: It isn’t possible in my view to separate RL and SL emotionally and people who say they can are deluding themselves. SL relationships are as real as RL and often flood over into RL.
Lowell: Can you give a ‘day in the life’ summary of a counselling session?
Tranquil: A session will begin with some time for the client to talk about how they are, and to tell of anything in particular they may wish to work on during the session. Then we will work together for around 35 to 40 minutes, using whichever techniques are most helpful, before finishing with some discussion about what the client has learned or understood during the session. We may then suggest some “homework” to do, or help them to set a goal for themselves to work on in the time until their next session. Initial consultations are free and briefer and exist primarily for us and the client to find out if we want to go further together. This is a vital safeguard in this type of on-line counselling.
Lowell: What is your approach with life coaching?
Tranquil: Therapy and counselling usually address issues which are caused by events that happened in the past. With life coaching, we support clients to work on changing things in their life in the present and future, allowing them to achieve goals they will set for themselves (a vital point) in various areas of their life: work, health and relationships. Areas such as motivation to lose weight, exercise and change bad habits often surface in coaching. Dealing with apparently difficult colleagues or partners is also a big area of coaching work. Most people present with a feeling of being stuck in a rut, however, and the reasons for that need to be coaxed into the open to allow the client themselves to be assisted (never advised) to reach conclusions about the best way forward and to find the right motivational triggers to make that happen.
Lowell: The potential for addiction to SL seems self-evident – would you agree and do you think you’d have a role to play in addressing that?
Tranquil: SL provides people with an escape from pressures and problems in their RL, which could become addictive. We describe SL as a platform for self-expression and this platform can take over from similar RL outlets to the detriment of someone’s wellbeing. Counselling for the issues causing the need to “escape”, along with support for making changes in the way they use SL, to reduce or stop their dependence are helpful for people who see their way of using SL as causing a problem for them. It is about helping people to get their needs met in balance which is the basis for health in the body/mind/spirit continuum.
Lowell: What health outcomes do you think you can achieve through in-world counselling?
Tranquil: Counselling through this medium achieves the same outcomes as in face-to-face work once suitability is established and an empathetic rapport has been created. So a range of problems can be tackled and overcome in ideal circumstances – including depression, anxiety, addictions, phobias, relationship problems and even complex issues like PTSD, in the right cases. The outcome should be a healthy body/mind/spirit after a relatively short number of sessions – usually no more than six.
Lowell: Like RL, knowing whether any professional is appropriately qualified can be difficult – does the lack of accreditation options in SL put either professionals or clients at risk?
Tranquil: It is certainly a possibility that unqualified people may pose as being able to help people. Our advice to clients is to always have an introductory session to see if there is a genuine counsellor who can help in an empathetic manner. Leave at once if you are uncertain or if you are asked to do anything which makes you uncomfortable. A golden rule for our type of therapy and counselling is that you should always leave a session feeling better than when you arrived. We do not dredge up the past and absolutely discount the ‘no pain, no gain’ school of therapy. Accreditation would be very helpful but SL is an international world and national regulations vary so much (and in some cases do not exist). We are looking to partner with similar minded counsellors to define high standards of practice and perhaps create a self-regulatory framework of SL accreditation in this important area.
Lowell: What plans do you have for your business?
Tranquil: We are relatively new to SL although we have long experience in RL counselling, coaching and therapy. Our goal is to provide ongoing, reliable and professional counselling support for the residents of SL. As we see more and more clients we will be able to be judged on our results more and more. On-line counselling is in its infancy but in the future we have an interest to offer group discussion sessions at our premises in Thargor, for people who will find that type of service helpful.
Lowell: What can someone expect when they come to see you?
Tranquil: Clients can expect to receive professional, confidential and non-judgmental support from a counsellor who is an empathetic and good listener. They can expect to be seen over a brief period of time (not hooked into months and months of expensive treatment) and they can expect to feel better very quickly. If at any time we feel that someone else can better treat them, they can expect to be referred promptly. We will not begin to treat cases which we are uncomfortable dealing with because of the nature of on-line counselling or where we are concerned about establishing rapport. We use SL IM for initial contact but will almost always need to talk to clients using VOIP (Skype or Yahoo) with web cams.