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What is Online Therapy?

Why would I choose online counselling when I am used to seeing someone in person?  I am sure you are surprised at the amount you are doing via your computer, whilst adapting to the unique situation of  COVID 19. This pandemic requires us all to become more flexible in order to keep ourselves and our community safe.  Fortunately, online therapy (also called distance therapy, remote therapy or Telehealth) offers a way to get the support you need at this challenging time, whilst staying safely at a social distance from your counsellor.

Online therapy is provided using video conferencing. It’s a way to enjoy a session using your smartphone, computer, or tablet.  It provides you with the opportunity to interact and “see” each other on the screen. Video calls can take the place of your in-person appointments whilst you stay at home.

What do you need to set it up?

A video call requires that you have a computer, smartphone or tablet and a stable internet connection using Wi-Fi or 4G. The last thing you need is a program such as Skype or Zoom to run the video call.  In my case I use an application called Zoom that you can easily download from the App store in order to take the call. I have selected Zoom to conduct my online appointments on as it now offers security features that ensure the confidentiality of all my clients’ information whilst online with me.

Effectiveness of online therapy

More than 30 years of research shows that online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy. I’ll admit it though I  have been surprised with how beneficial online therapy can be as I was a bit of a sceptic in the beginning. All my training and experience had orientated me towards providing face to face therapy. However, to adjust to our current circumstances I have given it a trial and  I have become a convert!  I’ve now experienced many online sessions which were equally as effective as my previous face to face sessions were.

Furthermore, my clients feedback has encouraged me to continue…what they say:

Clients report feeling comfortable and relaxed in the familiarity of their own environments. They feel more in control choosing the right place for them to participate online.

  1. They enjoy avoiding travel time and feel more at ease without having to battle traffic. parking or a train commute.
  2. Some who drive in from a distance (because they live in a remote area) are enjoying the easy access to counselling. Online therapy gives them access to services and professionals previously unavailable locally.
  3. Client’s with physical limitations that make it difficult for them to move around, travel, or come into an office,  comment that online counselling removes those barriers, making it easier for them to get the support they need.
  4. They like the increased sense of privacy. If you’re uncomfortable with being seen in counselling, distance therapy can be a solution  providing help and services confidentially.
  5. Time and travel costs are minimised, making therapy more affordable for the time poor.
  6. Some client’s have said they feel freer to open up and express themselves online rather than face to face, because that can feel “too intense” at times.

The challenges of online therapy

Although there are many advantages to online therapy, it does come with its own set of disadvantages as well. Here are some difficulties client’s have mentioned associated with Telehealth counselling:

  1. Client’s who thrive within a face-to-face interpersonal environment, miss the personal interaction of traditional therapy.
  2. Client’s who are challenged by the technology may find it difficult to set up and this can add stress to the whole endeavour. Coupled with this difficulty at times the quality of the internet may be poor and so disrupt the session whilst it is in progress.
  3. Missing non-verbal nuances: As a therapist I get concerned I may miss some of your non – verbal cues, even if the video camera is set up to provide as much of a realistic view of you as is possible. This could potentially lead to misunderstandings and communication break downs in the work.

The verdict

Isolation in the wake of COVID-19 doesn’t have to mean an interruption in your counselling. Online therapy using video conferencing is an alternative way to continue your therapy sessions while remaining safely at home. Although online counselling may not be the right fit for everyone, it will be an effective option for many clients new and old.

For those who find the technology of video calls too stressful or difficult, telephone calls may be an option as well. Feel free to discuss different distance therapy options with to find a solution that works for you.

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