Video Chat and Web Conferencing

video conference iconVideo chat and web conferencing are two more options for communicating with consumers remotely. Video chat is just like a phone conversation, but with a live video stream and is conducted like a phone conversation from your smart phone or computer. You simply dial a phone number or click on a user name using an application that allows for video streaming.

Web conferencing allows you talk with one or multiple people at the same time and it may or may not include a live video stream. What is unique about web conferencing is the ability to share documents, power points and even your computers’ screen with other people attending the web conference.

Video Chat

Video chat allows you to communicate remotely without losing nonverbal cues and offers many opportunities to improve the VR counselor/consumer relationship. For example, using video chat, counselors can:

  • Communicate with consumers who live at a distance from the provider office.
  • Access interpreters at different locations.
  • Offer remote training to consumers.

Today, there are numerous video chat options that you can use directly from your computer or Smart Phone. However, they can be frustrating if you or the person you are communicating with doesn’t have the right technology

Technology Needs on a Computer

In order to video chat, both you and the person you would like to chat with must have video and voice capabilities on your computers. Below is a list of items needed to video chat. Although many of the items on this list are installed internally on most modern desktop and laptop computers, purchasing hardware will greatly enhance your video chat capabilities. All of the items on the list can be bought relatively inexpensively at your favorite big box store.

A webcam:  Many laptops come equipped with a webcam. Alternatively, you can purchase a webcam and mount it on your computer.  If your computer is running optimally, any video chat software should automatically detect your webcam.

A headset:  Using internal speakers can create feedback or echo, making it difficult for the person you are talking with to understand what you are saying. Headsets fit comfortably over your ears and eliminate echo.

Microphone: You can buy headsets that also have microphone capabilities. They are convenient and typically offer the best sound quality.

Technology Needs on a Smartphone

The technology demands for a Smartphone are minimal. You want to make sure you have a strong cell phone signal or internet connection as well as headphones to minimize feedback. However, be aware that video calls can quickly eat up your data package.

Video Chat Software

Most smart phones come equipped with the ability to video chat. FaceTime comes installed on all Apple devices which allows you to quickly and easily video chat with other FaceTime users.

However, as with all technology, video chat software is constantly evolving. There are a number free video chat programs available for download onto your computer or Smartphone. As with most online accounts, take the time to look at the security settings and opt for the most secure option. Some popular video chat programs include, Skype, GoogleHangouts and ooVoo. To use these application, you and the person you are talking with will have to have them installed on their computer or smart phone.

Web Conferencing:

Web conferencing has many of the same possibilities for use as video conferencing. However, it also offers the opportunity to collaborate on documents with consumers who are unable to come to the VR office. For example, employment counselors could use web conferencing to assist consumers with their resume or job application.

Web conferencing is less adaptable to smartphones only because it is difficult to view documents on a small screen. To effectively use web conferencing software you will need a web cam (if you want to use video) as well as a headset and a microphone.

Web conferencing software generally requires a subscription by at least one of the users. The subscribed user can usually invite other user to join the “conference” if they do not have subscriptions. However, all users must download the web conferencing software which usually happens automatically the first time users join a conference. Talk to your IT department to see if you have access to web conferencing; most organizations subscribe to at least one web conferencing platform. Popular web conferencing platform include Adobe Connect, GotoMeeting and Cisco WebEx.


Mallen, M. Vogel, D., Rochlen, A., & Day, S. (2005).  Online counseling: Reviewing literature from counseling psychology framework.  The Counseling Psychologist, 33, 819-871