We are often skeptic about new technology and think it will completely change our lives. Social media has now changed the way we communicate, and behave because society itself is not what it used to be. Social media channels, and other digital platforms have now become the primary mediums on which teenagers and youth usually engage, form relationships and stay connected to the larger world. People of all ages now use social media to get news updates, pursuing interests and making new online contacts. Now, almost everybody is hooked to various social channels, and are spending a lot of time there; it can easily prove to be an ideal platform for counseling.
Counselors know that anxiety, depression, alienation, and even social isolation are primarily caused by many factors, but they still do their job by talking to people face-to-face. Although majority of counselors have joined social media for their work, others are still not sure about such faceless interaction. But the perception of such people should change. Ideally, the social channels are in a position to play a very important role in facilitating counseling on their platforms.
It doesn’t matter what people think, now the fact is out in the open. Social media are now integral part of our lives. It is here to stay and counselors have to seriously consider about adopting this channel for doing what they have been doing – counseling. Digital personal interaction is now the new reality of our social life, and counselors who deliberately shun any mention or reference of social media risk not just failing to get clients on board, but actually alienating them.
It will be interesting to add here that now some new social channels such as Connectd realized the importance of counseling, and have begun providing such services on their channels. They are aware of the specific problems that present youth normally face in their everyday life. And therefore, they added counseling feature on their app where you are immediately connected to professional counselors who can guide you depending on the issues that you may have been facing.
There is no doubt that physical one to one communication has played an important role in counselors’ training and work; hence, it may not be easy for practitioners to consider digital communication as an effective way to form a bond with clients. Counselors not only gather information from speech, but also from facial expressions and body language. Therefore, counselors are of the opinion that actual conversation is the only way in which people communicate and form relationships.
Because of such apprehensions, counselors are not very enthusiastic to engage in serious counseling on a virtual platform, but they need to understand this fact that many people — including young clients prefer forming relationships in this way. Besides, such relationships are as strong and meaningful to people as those formed in the usual manner.
It’s about time; counselors must recognize this new reality that has its own language, values and customs. And if counselors fail to identify the importance of this segment, they will likely struggle to accept its importance in clients’ lives. But once they come to understand this cultural group, they can easily empathize and make connections, strengthening the counselor-client relationship. Counselors should now realise how technology has become an indelible part of our lives.
They should take initiative by developing basic knowledge of social media and other online platforms. This would eventually help them learn enough about the online activity to understand the part it plays in clients’ lives. Social media is a dynamic platform for counselors to interact 24/7, something they cannot think earlier.
Counselors, who practice especially with teens, may be smart enough to learn as much as they can about different social media platforms, social media websites and popular apps that young people love. Moreover, they should also strengthen their relationships with youth, especially those in risk zones, to intervene and provide support when needed.
Teens belong to the age group that’s still going through the normal developmental phases of proving themselves and figuring out who they are. They may feel at ease in the digital world. However, there are still several things that they don’t understand. This is an area where counselors can play a vital role in guiding adolescents to protect their privacy by being careful about their social media activities like where they post personal information, being wary of people they don’t know and recognize that people often are not what they claim on these digital platforms.
This is also true about adults who should understand that the internet is forever. Once you post something, it remains posted, and it cannot be taken back. It’s not required for all counselors to be available on every possible social media platform, but the least they can do is to be aware of the digital culture to connect with and understand clients.