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Review of Skype & Skype for Business

31 May 2016    

Review by Dr Carole Francis-Smith, a BPS chartered and HCPC registered counselling psychologist, currently working in private practice 


Description: Skype is a well-known and well-used Internet communication system that offers; Instant message (IM), video and voice communication (both individual and group) as well as file transfers. They offer free access to Skype and a larger package they now call Skype for business, which comes with a cost. It operates on most platforms.

Setting up: Set up on Skype is relatively easy with creating a login and Skype name. Skype is downloaded onto the computer used. You can search for someone to connect with or find a specific Skype sign in (provided by client).

Skype business requires a download and access to Microsoft Office 365 (and its various upgrades). The Skype communication part of the system is virtually the same to use.

Client experience: Many clients would have used and been familiar with how Skype works but if not it just requires the same download as above.

Ongoing use: When both online at the scheduled time you can use the IM facility to check the other is ready, and who is ringing whom. Connection of a video call is reliant on good broadband provision, both ends, as a wide bandwidth is required. Having used Skype fairly widely (and with family and friends in other countries) I have had many incidents where connection has not been very good and either been hard to hear, or has dropped out completely. Always have a back up plan would be my advice. You can move between visual to audio (sometimes becomes more audible if having problems) and share files/ links via the IM facility, which is always an option.

Skype business offers a huge package through Microsoft Office 365 and would be fantastic if there were many people working in your place of business that wanted to connect. There is a possibility to see who is working, IM and set up meetings within and between businesses. However, for those in private practice I’m not sure there is any need to look beyond the free Skype level as this might be the only aspect you use.

Security: Skype technologies are owned by Microsoft, a US company. Whilst there might be slightly more security in the Skype for Business option it might not apply to the medium you wish to use. To read more about their security policy please follow the link.

There has been increasing concern about the safety of Skype for online therapeutic communications and Skype themselves have suggested it is not suitable for these types of communications. To read more about this please follow the link to see what Philippa has written about the latest position.

You can be excused for feeling confused about the most recent advice regarding safety of data and legal jurisdiction for online practitioners. Philippa has very up to date and understandable advice in this area – please follow her link to learn more http://www.pwtraining.com

Cost: Basic Skype is free, unless you wish to pay for external telephone phone calls. You can work with up to 25 people on the free version.

Skype business offers different plans but starts at £1.30 per user per month (annual commitment).


  • Skype is probably the most well-known and well-used Internet communication system – most people would have heard of it and/or have an account already.
  • It is relatively easy to set up utilising a download.
  • Once set up it is simple to use and benefits from one to one and group communication as well as file sending and sharing.


  • The arguments against Skype being a safe communication platform are growing and it is not ICO or HIPAA compliant.
  • Quality of contact can often be affected as it is reliant on good internet provision either end of the communication.
  • Skype business offers a fantastic array of facilities but the video communication system operates the same as the free version, and private practitioners are unlikely to need any more than that.
  • Skype works with a visible contacts list which may be problematic when attending to security.

These reviews were conducted on therapist usability basis and are not a definitive guide. Usability is affected by; what type of computer, computer program and broadband service you, and the person you are connecting with, utilise. The reviews are intended to provide helpful information for therapists looking for an online platform.

Philippa has produced a very useful Online Platforms Comparison Summary, designed to help you decide on a platform that suits you. To view a quick comparison of all software log in to your member account here. If you are not yet a member, join here to have access to a variety of exclusive resources and special offers.


About The Author

Dr Carole Francis-Smith is a BPS chartered and HCPC registered counselling psychologist, currently working in private practice. Carole provides therapy both in-person and online from her base near Bristol, and also offers training in mental health issues to organisations. Having undertaken doctoral research into ‘Email therapy and the therapeutic relationship’ Carole has developed a special interest in the process of online communications, and  is committed to the promotion of safe online practice. With this in mind Carole also offers training for new therapists contemplating online working, bespoke training to complement core therapy trainings, and also with businesses to improve communication networks.

Please feel free to contact her by email, visit her website and read a blog she wrote called ‘Therapy through the looking glass; implications for training and beyond…’ on aspects of her research, published on the Online Therapy Institute website.