In the age of technology, remote therapy has become increasingly popular. In the age of Covid, teletherapy (or “video therapy”) became a necessity. Remote therapy provides an opportunity for those who don’t have access to traditional therapy options.
I’ve used teletherapy on a limited basis for many years – long before Covid. My therapy clients have found it to be quite effective and convenient. I also believe it is effective, although traditional, in-person sessions are preferred.
Most teletherapy today is conducted over the internet using encrypted video transmissions. In the past, therapists would conduct a limited number of phone sessions when no other options were available. Phone sessions are generally discouraged due to poor mobile phone reception and because of the importance of visual contact with clients.
There are several advantages, and a couple of disadvantages, with teletherapy:
- Distance and Mobility
By far the greatest advantage of – and need for – teletherapy. Many clients live in remote areas, or locations that are not readily accessible to a therapist’s office. When clients and their families move across the state, they may continue their therapy uninterrupted by using teletherapy. And when they travel for work, clients are able to access therapy throughout the country and the world.
- Illness and Disability
When clients are contagious or too sick to attend in-person sessions, teletherapy is an excellent alternative. I’ve also conducted teletherapy with clients who are immobilized due to surgery or injury.
- Anxiety and Phobias
Many clients suffer from debilitating anxiety disorders. They may be too socially anxious to meet in person. Some have driving phobias and are unable to drive on the highway. Years ago, when I specialized in anxiety disorders I worked with many agoraphobics – people who may be unable to leave their homes due to crippling anxiety and panic attacks. I conducted many phone sessions at the time. Now, the universal availability of video therapy is a lifesaver.
There is great flexibility and adaptability in the use of teletherapy. Clients who cannot arrange childcare can benefit from this approach. Some clients have such demanding work schedules, they must be at the office or work site for long hours, but they can carve out 45-50 minutes for a video therapy session. I’ve conducted quite a few sessions with clients who use their cars for privacy, or they find a secluded spot in a nearby park. Hotel rooms are great for those who travel for work.
- Nonverbal Limitations
Both clients and therapists are at a disadvantage when they cannot easily observe and respond to body language. Gestures, a slight nod of the head, a shrug, and expressive hand movements can say a lot. Eye contact may be less effective or impactful as well. Like most therapists, I can be most helpful to clients when I can “read them” effectively by experiencing the whole person directly, without a screen coming between us.
- The Curative Aspects of Relationship
Numerous research studies show that the relationship between client and therapist is the most important factor in client improvement and recovery. A positive therapeutic relationship is more important than any specific method used by therapists. Clients report greater satisfaction with therapy when they feel their therapist “gets them” – when they feel fully understood and accepted by the therapist. In my years of experience, this type of relationship can be facilitated with teletherapy, but it is optimized in person.
Internet-based video technology works great – but it’s far from perfect. I’ve experienced numerous problems with reception and connectivity over time. And my clients often become distracted by children or other adults in the background. Cell phones are probably the biggest distraction, but this also happens during regular office sessions. During video therapy sessions, clients sometimes cannot resist the temptation to check their email or look at something else on their computers during therapy sessions.
In summary, teletherapy works quite well and has many advantages. However, in my experience, and many of my colleagues agree with this whole-heartedly, nothing beats in-person sessions at the therapy office.
If you would like to arrange either teletherapy or in-person sessions with our experienced counselors and therapists, please contact us today.