Reflections on the Benefits of Online Counseling
The COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of uncertainty and fear, upending the lives of so many people. Meetings, classes, family gatherings, court proceedings, and medical appointments have all taken on some form of telecommunication.
Therapy is no different, and the numbers of individuals seeking therapy through some means of telehealth continues to rise. And why not? The demand for therapy remains very high, and bridging the gap between client and therapist is ultimately a good thing.
Similar to other fields using telecommunication, teletherapy (also known as online therapy, online counseling, telehealth, and virtual counseling) has its pros and cons. As a licensed psychologist, I work with clients in both in-person and online therapy formats with a secure HIPAA compliant platform.
After nearly two years of incorporating teletherapy into my practice, I’d like to share some of my impressions on the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision about whether in person or online counseling is for you.
Convenience and accessibility
The use of technology has brought therapy to our literal fingertips. A smartphone is now the doorway to a confidential session with a licensed therapist or psychologist. Online therapy from your phone, ipad, or computer completely eliminates the commute time spent going to and from a physical office and the headache of dealing with unexpected traffic on the way. Finding the time to dedicate to therapy is a common concern for many, and eliminating (or reducing) travel time might make someone more willing to pursue therapy.
Similar to convenience, technology has made mental health care more accessible, especially in situations where geography is a limiting factor. Online counseling is a viable option for someone requiring a specific kind of expertise that is not available locally. Having more options and better access to these experts reduces barriers to receiving care and creates more successful therapeutic outcomes.
Connectedness and technology challenges
While teletherapy has undoubtedly increased convenience and access to therapy services, the question of “connectedness” inevitably comes up as a topic of conversation. The term “connectedness” used here does not refer to one’s internet connection (though this point is highlighted below), but rather the sense of connection a person feels towards the therapist and the therapy process.
There is something very special about the therapy room, the physical place where a person can come, express their feelings, and be vulnerable. The therapy room, and both the client and therapist being present in that room, adds to the sense of feeling connected, safe, and understood by the therapist.
For some, the use of digital devices reduces one’s sense of feeling connected with the therapist.
Technology challenges are nothing new; however, the surge of individuals needing to work or attend school from home has presented challenges to internet service providers. It’s not uncommon for a poor internet connection to disrupt or even prevent someone from logging in for their workday, attending a class, or participating in an important appointment such as counseling. Various technology challenges can render a therapy session ineffective and result in feelings of frustration or helplessness, which is why it’s important to have a backup plan (ie: phone session) in case of unexpected internet issues.
Ultimately, effective therapy is about the goodness of fit, and this is especially true when considering the format of the therapy. If you are considering teletherapy, ask yourself the following questions:
-Is it important for me to be in the same room as the therapist?
-Do I work well-using video platforms for other important business or meetings?
-Am I prone to distractions while in my home?
Still, have questions about how online therapy (telehealth) can be beneficial for you? I invite you to contact me for a complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305. I’d be happy to speak with you about your concerns and needs with respect to getting started with your own therapy journey!