All Skype-to-Skype communication, including Skype chat, is encrypted, so (unlike ordinary email) Skype conversations cannot easily be intercepted remotely by someone with a bit of specialist knowledge and software. However, Skype is now owned by Microsoft, and it appears that the company does scan Skype conversations for suspicious links and other content.
Another security issue is that if someone else (e.g. a husband, partner or manager) has access to your computer, they can install software which secretly records Skype conversations and (in some cases) automatically uploads the recorded files to a web location where they can be remotely accessed. If you are concerned about this, you can (on a Windows computer) go to Control Panel, Programs and Features, and check for installed software with a name something like “Skype Recorder”.
Provided you’re willing to accept these risks, then Skype chat can be considered secure enough for counselling purposes. Alternatively you can use other software for video or text chat; please contact me if you wish to consider this. And of course you should always take appropriate steps to protect your own online security, as described on the Skype Security page.
Counselling with Skype chat
If you are comfortable with using your computer to chat over the internet (perhaps you already use other internet chat rooms), then Skype chat can work well for counselling. It has some of the precision of email, but with the immediacy of video or face-to-face counselling.
As with email counselling, there are no facial expressions or body language to convey emotions, and so misunderstandings can easily arise. So I try to be very clear about what I mean, and I use emoticons (“smileys”) where appropriate. And if you’re annoyed or upset by anything I say, please let me know immediately so that I can clear up any misunderstanding.
Another problem with chat is that at each step in the conversation it can take me a little while to decide what I want to say and then type it into the computer, and in the meantime you are looking at a static screen with only a little pen icon to indicate what’s happening at my end. To get round this, I usually split what I want to say into small chunks of 1-2 lines, and send it to you one chunk at a time, ending each chunk with 3 dots (…) to show that I haven’t yet finished what I want to say. If you find this helpful, you may like to do the same.
The practical bits
Obviously you’ll need to have Skype installed on your computer, and I’ll ask you to let me know your contact name, so that I can send you an invitation to connect. We then just need to agree a date and time when we’re going to “meet” on Skype, and then when the time comes I’ll send you a message to start our conversation.
And if for any reason I’m not able to contact you on Skype at the agreed time, or if the Skype connection breaks down, then I’ll try to contact you by phone. And similarly if for any reason you’re not able to contact me on Skype, then please try to phone me, so that we can fix the problem, if necessary by rescheduling to another time.