Written By: Starlett Henderson, AFC®
A smartphone in every pocket. A computer on every desk. A wifi connection in every room.
These things are so ubiquitous they feel as if they have always been. Indeed, for some young adult clients, from some communities, this is definitely the case.
For some counselors though, there was a time we can remember where cords and the tone of dial-up were the norm.
Add to the more immediate situation of stay-at-home and essential-worker-only restrictions due to COVID-19, you may be experiencing a clash between what you’ve always done and what must be done now.
With this new world comes new ways of being connected personally and professionally, new revenue streams, and new clients. Some of the challenges of delivering face to face counseling services are opportunities for the digital citizen or someone who wants to be.
Think is no more commute. Think less overhead. Think working from wherever there is internet.
Those are just the opportunities for you, the counselor.
Virtual counseling reduces some hassle for your in-person clients, as well as opens the door for shut-ins or individuals who are already so connected online, they have little room in their schedule to step into your office. It’s also a way to seek help more confidentially for those concerned with being seen going to a counselor’s office.
There are many things to be said for the more familiar face-to-face counseling. Positive things like non-verbal communication, which in turn strengthens connections.
In financial counseling in particular, we know putting pen to paper helps with accomplishing goals and understanding the bigger and smaller pictures the numbers paint for our clients and us. Virtual counseling might not feel as cooperative or complete.
Then there are challenges around security and privacy and what to do if you need to enact your duty to warn.
Polish that first impression. Most programs allow you to upload a profile pic that should be both personable and professional. Not having a profile pic can be overlooked but bad lighting akin to The Blair Witch Project and sound quality, distractions, and interruptions cannot. Try a couple different rooms and lighting options. Your virtual office must be curated with care and be as prepared as possible, as if you’re inviting the client to come in and take a seat as normal.
This new skill in your toolkit is a valuable one and some would say it is the way the world is heading. Knowing a thing or two about picking virtual platforms and how to conduct personal and professional business using such platforms adds value to those who can do it. Help your clients learn, navigate, and grow their capacity to improve their own bottom line.
Them knowing the software you’re using impacts the benefits from future sessions as well.
If you were an early adapter or even a tech-savvy dabbler, you may have the capacity to dive in and build a course for your clients. Build a few courses based on your own clients frequently asked questions before, during and after their financial counseling experience with you. Delivering services to a group in a live environment creates connection and deepens learning. Doing this online is cheaper and could be less logistically complicated.
Think of adding virtual counseling services as diversifying your portfolio. It serves its purposes as defined by you from bringing potential better work life balance and decreases expenses. It’s another option for delivering services if it makes sense to you and those who you are leading through change. Your needs and their needs change and sometimes life and pandemics intervene. Having options in your hip pocket that you are proficient in can only be a good thing.
What other options might you consider for more diversification?
Coaching? Financial Therapy? Walk and Talk Sessions?
Once you feel adept with virtual counseling, take on other new worlds to help yourself and your clients.
For AFCPE® members, 2019 Symposium Session: Ethical Issues in the Provision of Online Financial
Counseling and Education Services: A Systematic Literature Review and Best Practice Recommendations