Counselling and psychotherapy have been around for over 100 years now as a ‘talking therapy‘, started by Freud, the father of it all.
During Freud’s time, there wasn’t as much technology as we have now. Therapy was purely face-to-face, with people nearby. People might have travelled from far to speak to Freud and other professionals of the time.
Nowadays, we have the benefit of having the internet. We can access support from anywhere (almost) in the world.
There might be some reservations by therapists and potential clients alike regarding having therapy online:
- What about non-verbal language?
- What if the internet fails?
- It doesn’t feel as personal or close as face-to-face session
Others might see the advantages more than the potential downfalls:
- I don’t need to travel to have good therapy
- I live in a rural area and it’s hard for me to access any therapists near me.
- I have mobility issues and going on my laptop to speak to my therapist solves many issues, and I’m dealing with my mental health from the comfort of my home.
In regards to the reservations, I’d say that good training for working online will help overcome the question of having limited or no non-verbal cues to pick up and enrich the work. There are other nuances and ways to work online that bring to the forefront other cues that aren’t emphasised in face to face work.
There needs to be clear contracting around what to do if the internet fails. There could be options such as reverting to just audio call or text chat for a particular session, so the work can continue.
Being prepared for the eventualities of having to adjust to different mediums of communication will help keep things grounded and boundaries, and keep everyone calm while the alternate ways of working are put into practice.
The personal and closeness of the work will depend on the therapist’s emotional and presence. It is up to them to make the virtual room a safe and contained space to work.
In regards to the client’s responsibilities in this, an openness to try it out and get into the work, will be necessary, taking into account that it might take a few sessions for it to feel comfortable.
It’s similar in some ways to the first few face to face sessions: the client comes to see a new person, in a new environment. It might take a bit of time to get used to both.
Saving time spent travelling is an advantage some people prefer. You can have therapy during your lunch break, or in a quiet office once everyone’s left work for the day. Some people might be unwell and message based therapy might be ideal as they can remain in their bed, comfortable while they recover physically, while looking after their mental wellbeing as well.
Living with mobility issues or in rural areas limits accessibility to therapeutic services. Online therapy resolves some of these issues.
It is also helpful to note that there are many more therapists to choose from when working online, it’s not limited to a handful in your local area, which is fantastic!
There are many online platforms that offer online counselling, but this type of therapy isn’t limited to them. Many private practitioners are trained and working online nowadays, and you can find them easily through google searches and counselling directories, or through their blogs, which is an added bonus when looking for a therapist online – you will have an insight on how they work from how they write about topics that might relate to your current situation.
Will you give online therapy a chance? What else would you want to know about it before you take the leap?
Karin Brauner is a bilingual counsellor in private practice, working online as a counsellor, supervisor, marketing and self-care coach.