So what’s the deal with Online Therapy?!
An Insider’s Guide to Online Therapy
As someone who has experience with online therapy – both as a client, and as a practitioner – I wanted to give you the inside scoop. The reality is that in our vast world of internet communication, telecommuting, and the world being reduced to the size of a microchip, we all have access to both greater convenience and more services. Now, I will caution anyone who believes blindly in “more is more,” especially when it comes to the concept of choice, and I will also invite you to consider the potential of being connected with people and services that, until now, you may not have accessed. So basically, proceed with mindful optimism!
Effectiveness of Online Therapy – Is it legit?
Growing buzz surrounds several aspects of this question, and before trying to answer it too simply, let’s first check-in with what the words “effectiveness” and “legit” mean to you. Remember, the empirical world will often try to do this for us, which, for me, can be very stifling to my reality, so I encourage you to grasp firmly to yours as you read this. Many will argue that online therapy forms are not as “effective” as face-to-face therapy, and this certainly has some merit. So much of the magic of therapy is in the field of the therapeutic relationship – that is, the people, the setting, and quite literally, the room! So, generally speaking, relationship across computer screens can be different than in person. And yes, the challenge of contact remains. One funny thing I’ve noticed about Skype sessions is that, in order to appear to look someone in the eye, I have to look at the “eye” of the camera, which usually sits above the computer monitor for most of us. Thus, we can never really look each other in the eye at the same time, which is, of course, a big part of non-verbal connection in relationship! Other challenges include internet connection quality/speed, technology failures, difficulty in communication, and an increased challenge in empathic response.
Benefits of Online Therapy – Make it work for you!
The list of caveats can grow long when we’re discussing internet counseling, and I definitely urge you to consider them before starting. In the spirit of possibility, let’s also consider some potential benefits:
- eliminates language and cultural barriers – say you live in a foreign culture, temporarily or otherwise, and you need support from someone who shares better skills and understanding in both language and culture. Online therapy allows you to find someone who can better serve you, even if he/she doesn’t live in your nation-or continent, for that matter!
- offers convenience – evidence suggests that online therapy sessions result in fewer missed appointments, which is generally good for all parties. Moreover, both client and therapist have more choice in their setting, which can make for a more relaxed, open environment. Creating a client’s own setting for him/herself can be entirely magical as well. Picture this: you’re on your half-day or day off at home, you cozy up in your favorite room, create the lighting, bring your favorite pillows and blanket…it can get pretty awesome in this way.
- can be less intimidating for some clients – for many of us the thought of transporting ourselves to an unfamiliar office environment can be enough to dissuade our attempts to start therapy. Online therapy provides an opportunity for clients to gain support at a time and place of their choosing, with comfort of familiarity and no external pressures to limit us.
- can be great for people with busy schedules – many of us in this day and age find ourselves in fifth gear, multitasking our different jobs, relationships, partners, kids, and obligations. Our nature is often to put our own well-being well down (or off!) the list of highest priorities. Online therapy allows the busy people to do a session when otherwise they wouldn’t. Lock your office door, put in the ear buds, and give your lunch hour over to your own needs for support and growth! When the kids are going to be taking a nap or doing after school activities, you can do a session anywhere you can get your computer, ipad or mobile device!
Forms of Online Therapy
- Skype – Skype is a free on-line video and text conferencing application that can be accessed by computers and smart phones. Experience real-time video and audio with your therapist from any location where the internet can be accessed. Free Skype download here.
- Email Therapy – The benefit of email therapy is that it is often more cost-effective than in person therapy, though obviously not nearly as much personal contact.
- iChat/Videoconferencing – these forms are less established in the clinical world, though the technology can work like Skype. Be sure to ask your therapist about the appropriate informed consent for any method videoconferencing.
Confidentiality of Online Therapy
Hopefully you are wondering about this, because any therapist worth seeing has his/her documentation in line to conduct online therapy. Before beginning therapy, ask your potential therapist about informed consent, so that you can first peruse the guidelines, caveats, and boundaries that come with this emerging form of therapy. Once he/she has been properly informed, essentially, it is up to the client to accept the unique challenges to confidentiality that online therapy provides, and for most people, it’s really no big deal.