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Online counselling: getting started

Whether you’re a counsellor, psychotherapist, or trainee, this 25-hour short course will show you how to set up and provide safe and effective online counselling. It’ll teach you how to establish remote counselling via video and/or phone and how to navigate technology, data protection, and contracting challenges, as well as explore ethical practices, assess client suitability for online therapy, manage boundaries, work safely and foster inclusivity and diversity. This course was developed by the OU in partnership with the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB) and aligns with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy's (BACP) Online and Phone Therapy competency framework and the competencies set out in the Scope of Practice and Education (SCoPEd) framework. You’ll receive a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) certificate upon successfully completing the course.

Discounts available

BACP members or those intending to progress to the CPCAB Level 5 Award in Online and Phone Counselling Practice can claim a 40% discount on this course. To take advantage, please call 0300 303 5303 and have your discount code to hand, which you can obtain from BACP or CPCAB.

Short course

Short course code



This is a non-credit bearing course.

Study method

Short course cost

Entry requirements

What you will study

The course focuses on how to set up/start video and phone counselling, as well as the practical considerations for working remotely, assessment of client suitability for online working, risk assessment and the challenges to working ethically in online counselling.

This course is split into six units:

Unit 1: Introduction sets up the course and invites you to consider your current confidence in meeting competencies for video and phone counselling.

Unit 2: Setting up online counselling focuses on both technological options and aspects as well as legal context, in particular related to data security, that need consideration when setting up remote counselling.

Unit 3: Working ethically in video and phone counselling introduces you to the unique ethical considerations and challenges practitioners need to be aware of and navigate when working via video-link and phone.

In Unit 4: Working safely in video and phone counselling you'll learn about assessment in video/phone counselling, with a specific focus on risk assessment and management. You'll also consider the role of practitioner self-care and supervision for sustaining good and safe practice with vulnerable clients.

Unit 5: Equality, diversity and inclusion in video and phone counselling focuses on the importance of counsellors and psychotherapists working to foster equality, diversity and inclusion in remote practice. You'll also consider the responsibility of practitioners to think about the accessibility of their services and the advantages or disadvantages of remote counselling to certain groups of clients.

In Unit 6: Conclusion you'll reflect on what you have learned on this course, and what is seen currently as training needs and requirements for delivering remote counselling.

You will learn

By studying this course, you will gain:

  • an understanding of key practical, technological and legal considerations for safe and effective online counselling
  • awareness of key ethical considerations for working online
  • an understanding of theory and research about how to assess client suitability for online counselling
  • knowledge of key considerations and methods of initial and going risk assessment for both clients and counsellors in online counselling
  • awareness of the ways Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are relevant to ethical online counselling practice 
  • an ability to reflect on the meaning of your own opinions, experiences, and practices in relation to digital communication technologies in terms of online counselling practice.  

Vocational relevance

The course was developed by the OU in partnership with the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB) who recognise this course as one of the pre-requisites for the CPCAB Level 5 Award in Online and Phone Counselling Practice. The content aligns to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) Online and Phone Therapy Competence Framework and with the SCoPEd (The Scope of Practice and Education Framework) competencies for phone and video-based counselling. Course completion will boost knowledge and confidence to support counsellors and psychotherapists in offering technology-based counselling safely and effectively.

CPCAB and BACP logos

Learner support

This short course offers online learning and contains self-study materials to be studied at your own pace. There is no learner support from learning advisers available on this course.

Teaching and assessment


There is no formal assessment on this course. The course includes multiple ‘pauses for reflection’ designed to promote the reflexivity which is a professional skill for counsellors. The course also includes an end-of-course multiple-choice quiz.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements. This course is designed for qualified counsellors and psychotherapists as well as counselling and psychotherapy trainees.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact us.

Course length

In total, this course will require around 25 hours to complete.

The course is open for registration for 12 months. Once enrolled, learners are advised to complete within two months but the course will be accessible for 18 months.


Start End England fee Register
At anytime before registration end date Jan 2025 - see Entry requirements for more detail £200.00

Registration closes 31/07/2024


Ways to pay

Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron.

Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

The fee information provided here is valid for short courses starting in the 2024/25 academic year. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

All learning materials are delivered entirely online. You’ll have access to a course website, which includes:

  • a study planner
  • course-specific materials and activities
  • audio and video content.

Computing requirements

You'll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS Ventura or higher.

Functionality may be limited on mobile devices. For example, voice recorder activities, which are common in language short courses, may not work on iOS/Apple devices.

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

If you have a disability

The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DGXS002 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.