By Suzie Klein
Many people are interested in therapy but encounter various difficulties in finding a treatment that is most beneficial to their mental health needs. Commonly, people seek therapy that is easily accessible, does not require long-distance travel, and provides reliable communication, and a trust-based relationship with their therapist.
In recent years, the technology and computer industry has developed, enabling us to communicate, explore and interact with other individuals with easy access. One important service made more widely-accessible online is psychotherapy and counselling. With the help of programs such as “Skype” or “Zoom”, we can now reach out to other individuals, see them, hear and talk to them freely in a way that simulates a face-to-face conversation.
Who does it suit?
Online therapy can provide a convenient solution to people who cannot leave their houses for multiple reasons. For example, it is suitable for people living abroad or lacking accessibility to reach the clinic/office by themselves. Online therapy is also beneficial for people who are unable to leave their homes due to illness or disability, or people who deal with social anxiety or severe depression and lack the strength to organize home leave. Others who maintain a busy schedule and cannot be available for extra travel to the clinic/office after work or outside of their commitment can also find the online therapy useful and easier to commit to with regularity.
What are the benefits?
- The perfect environment – the client has the option to choose the environment that is comfortable for them in which the sessions will take place and will give them a sense of security and openness.
- A sense of control – the degree of exposure is in the hands of the client.
- Reaching insights – the ability to write helps to organize and process information so that it can help develop awareness and insight in the client.
- Flexible and approachable – the online sessions allow flexibility in the schedule and save time to arrive and get back from the session.
- Better communication – the inconvenience and embarrassment that characterize initial meetings is reduced.
- More effective – the lack of physical encounter results in both parties devoting more effort to bridge the gap and thus leading to the resolution of difficulty in a relatively short time.
What are the shortcomings?
- Accessibility – Unfortunately, internet networks and technology are not available to everyone, and the quality of the connection can often be poor and unreliable.
- Privacy – in some cases, people do not have the option to perform the sessions in a private setting, which can harm the consistency and effectiveness of the process.
- Interpersonal qualities – the support that is provided is not as easily received as in an intimate session, and the qualities of individual therapy are different from the qualities of online therapy in terms of warmth and interaction with the therapist.
- Therapist and client relationship – the nature of the relationship between the therapist and the client is different when communicating online.
How can you overcome these difficulties?
It is possible to compensate for long-distance therapy when making sure that these criteria are met:
- High-quality internet connection to ensure a consistent online session.
- Quiet and private environment for the online session.
- Personal motivation and commitment to the therapy process from the client’s side.
- A convenient time throughout the day when we can avoid other distractions.
- Consistency of the sessions to ensure a successful and meaningful process.
- Professional experience of the therapist.
- The chemistry is created between the therapist and the client.
- Empathy for the client’s feelings.
Another thing to consider is the severity of the mental difficulty or diagnosis of the client. In some cases, when a crisis takes place, online therapy might not be beneficial in performing a significant intervention, and therefore, it is very important to conduct a discovery session before the process.
No matter which you choose (online or -person), always make sure to schedule an initial consultation or a “discovery session” with your prospective counsellor before making your final decision.
The discovery session is a short call that helps the therapist get to know you and better understand your mental health needs. This initial call also gives you, the client, a better understanding of the approach and communication skills of the therapist. In turn, this allows for both parties to make an informed decision about whether or not the course of therapy, or therapist, is the right choice. Furthermore, the discovery session will help both the therapist and client gain a better sense of whether or not the process will be successful, effective, and meaningful, making the first step an effortless and positive experience.
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