Is teletherapy as effective as in-person therapy? And are there any other differences between phone or online versus in-person therapy that I should know about? Are there any other points to consider here?
I have offered online and phone sessions, also known as teletherapy, for several years, and my clients have gotten good therapy outcomes from our teletherapy work together. For my wheelchair-bound clients; folks recovering from an injury or surgery; those at home doing elder care or child care; busy executives; or those living in remote areas, teletherapy has been a lifeline. But anyone can achieve positive changes in their wellbeing and in their relationships through teletherapy.
There are some key reasons why online therapy works:
- It takes clients from a place of isolation to a place of connection. My virtual session clients often tell me that I am the only person they can talk to candidly about their situation, or the only person they can talk to, period. At the time of this writing, households around the world have been rocked by Covid-19, and the world is entering a season of unfathomable grief and loss. Clients need empathic connection now more than ever, and I have found that online and phone therapy allow for true empathic connection to happen. Therapists pay attention to eye contact, voice, and body language the same way in person as in online therapy. During phone therapy, we pay close attention to voice, breath, and word spacing to make sure that the client feels seen and heard.
- Meeting virtually has a low threshold cost. Without special equipment, just their phone, clients can connect to therapy from anywhere they choose, and it takes little to no time for them to reach their therapy location. With fewer barriers to reaching that much-needed point of connection, the overall experience feels more positive.
Advantages of teletherapy include, firstly, that the client has more therapists to choose from. If you have a great rapport with a therapist whose office is fifty miles from your home, or a thousand miles from home, it’s no problem. And you can’t put a price on being in your own familiar home environment, slippers optional! One disadvantage of therapy at home is the lack of auditory privacy for sharing personal feelings; or when a client needs to speak frankly about a member of their household. I offer a flexible schedule, including shorter or longer sessions, so that clients can take full advantage of times when they do have privacy. Another advantage is the financial and time savings when clients don’t need to organize babysitting, elder care, pet sitting and the like, to travel to and from a therapist’s office. The lack of travel time also makes it easier to maintain normal work hours, which is good for productivity of course, but also for avoiding the awkwardness of having to explain leaving work early for a “doctor’s appointment.” When family members are geographically separate, online conference calls allow them to have real couples’ counseling or family counseling, all being present in the same virtual space.
The Covid-19 pandemic has most of us thinking intentionally about what, and who, matters most in life. For many people, the stress of working and learning from home is making everything harder. Loneliness; power struggles in relationships; grief, and loss are real stressors in and of themselves. It’s not easy for those who must report to the workplace, either. There’s more performance pressure in most workplaces right now, with the backdrop of fear of virus exposure. For others, there’s a painful awareness that the problems and concerns that existed prior to this crisis will be there after it, and are made worse by it. Also sadly, today’s traumas often trigger painful memories of yesterday’s trauma. All of this means that today might be the perfect time to talk to a therapist, have your concerns acknowledged, and get on the path to healing and positive change. Teletherapy is an effective platform that brings positive results.
A word to victims and survivors of Intimate Partner Violence, also called Domestic Violence — a proven resource that is still in place for you is The National Domestic Violence Hotline, and they can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE, and at www.thehotline.org, and by texting LOVEIS to 22522. The hotline can help victims find safe(r) strategies while remaining in place with the abuser.