When I tell people what I do for a living—provide online therapy—I often get a confused and slightly concerned look. "Online therapy? Is that a real thing?"
Yes. Yes, it is.
It's also called "tele-mental health" or "distance counseling." But what exactly is it and will it work for you?
Online therapy is therapy conducted using certain technologies in order to facilitate communication between the professional and the client who are not at the same location. The actual therapy part isn't that much different than face-to-face therapy. The primary difference between online and in-person services is the conveyance of those services. Simply put, online therapy is therapeutic services that are delivered by video or other digital means.
But it's still therapy.
That said, there are some things to consider regarding the delivery system and what those might mean for your treatment. As with anything else in life, there are pros and cons to digitally-delivered services. Let's look at some of them:
Convenience: Since the client will be attending therapy sessions online in the comfort of his or her own home, they can often schedule their therapy sessions for times that are the most convenient for them, working around job, school or family obligations much more easily.
Affordability: Online therapy is often less expensive than face-to-face services since the practitioner has reduced overhead and are able to pass those savings to their clients. Also, many private practitioners offer "packages" of services, further reducing costs.
Accessibility: Those living in rural locations or who might struggle with physical disabilities that make travel onerous will have greater access to treatment providers they might not otherwise have.
Inappropriate for Certain Psychological Disorders: There are psychiatric disorders that require more intensive and responsive treatment, including psychosis, severe depression, suicidal ideation, etc.
Inappropriate for Crisis Situations: Because of the very nature of the modality, the clinician is not likely to be available to respond in crisis or emergent situations. A clear and agreed-upon crisis intervention plan is a must. Additionally, there may be times when the therapist will need to determine the necessity for transferring care to a face-to-face provider.
Confidentiality and Privacy Risks: There is always the risk of online privacy violations or hacks, regardless of the many layers of security that might be being used. Even Equifax, one of the nation's largest credit reporting agencies, suffered a data breach, so it is not outside of the realm of possibility for a privacy breach to occur.
In addition, both parties—therapist and client—must do their best to ensure that their individual environments are conducive to privacy. A quiet room with a locked door and measures taken to ensure there are no interruptions or distractions are a must.
Technology Glitches and Failures: As marvelous as technology is, sometimes it fails us. Internet connections drop, phones drop or disconnect, lack of technical know-how—having a plan for these possibilities can help alleviate the frustrations but the risk of occurrence is still very real.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER:
* Are you able to arrange your environment to ensure a private, quiet, distraction- and interruption-free setting for the duration of your session?
*Do you have the technology requirements to allow for this form of communication: hi speed internet, video and audio equipment?
Still wondering if online therapy is for you?
No problem. I offer a free 15 minute consultation session so that we can get to know each other and decide whether or not working together is a good fit for us. Let's talk!