If you haven’t already noticed, the globe is undergoing a digital revolution. Adapting to it is required to be able to “go with the times”. Bank establishments are prioritising online services, the government is accepting online applications for pretty much everything, special discounts are offered for transactions completed entirely online, medical practices are digitalised. The list of examples is endless and calls our attention to become computer and internet savvy. However, there is some resistance regarding letting go of the old way of doing things, especially in using certain services.
As mental health professionals we are aware that a lot has changed in providing therapy. From a decrease of insurance covered therapeutic interventions, to long waiting lists in rural and highly populated cities, stricter cancellation policies where not showing up for sessions, gets one back to that long waiting list.
Online therapy options are gaining popularity and are viewed as a solution to overcome the obstacles one meets in their efforts to access therapy. Some might resist even the concept of online therapy. This blog spot is for you, the one doing the resisting. Online therapy options provide benefits to clients and therapists alike. By continuing to read through this, the major benefits of teletherapy are highlighted.
One of the biggest barriers to enter therapy is the initial appointment. Research suggests that most clients attend only one session. Meaning they go to one session, and never go back. Theories trying to explain this observation argue that this happens for a lot of reasons including but not limited to the first experience being uncomfortable, and that there was not a good fit between the client and the therapist.
Finding the office, sitting in the waiting room counting down the time, being anxious, worrying if you happen to see someone you know, while waiting for the therapist to escort you from the reception to the therapy room, are elements that make people feel uncomfortable. Imagine this spiderweb of unknowns placed on top of another spider web, which symbolises feelings of discomfort that typically lead people to access psychological services. Online therapy takes away the typical barriers of engaging in therapy for the first time. E-therapy is almost always completed in the comfort of your own space. You can wear your comfy clothes, have your cosy blanket, your favourite mug and tea. All the elements that help you feel comfortable are there with you. This makes initiating therapy and opening up to the professional of your choice more likely to happen.
In small and big communities, privacy and anonymity is always an important component in therapy. Depending on one’s geographical location and the type of clients seen by a therapist i.e. youth, children etc, clients might know each other. Especially when working with clients who are involved in social media (most people are), it is important to consider that people might be connected over social media platforms. When booking face to face sessions, I go to great lengths to ensure that clients will have enough time to enter and exit the office space without ever seeing another client. However, certain elements which are out of the therapist’s control might compromise this. Online therapy works wonders in preventing awkward run ins, with old school mates, friends, mortal enemies, or acquaintances.
We all know that time is money and once time has passed it cannot be regained. As such, traveling to a therapist’s office can be frustrating and stressful. Traffic (whether expected or not) often leads clients to rush in, anxious about being late or missing valuable time from their session. Needless to say that coming in for a session frustrated or stressed, time will be spent in calming down and then addressing what one might have intended to discuss. Be default this implies that less time will be dedicated in addressing what the client initially prioritised. Bearing in mind that clients have enough on their plate, worrying about one more place to be, finding parking close enough to the office and parking ticket costs will be an irritation.
Alongside saving valuable time by diminishing the need to travel to your therapist’s office, online therapy allows for maximum flexibility in booking sessions in. It is important to consider that those who need services the most, have the least time, and are the most overworked. Being able to schedule a session with minimal changes to one’s workload or routine is ideal, bearing in mind the fast pace of life we are all called to cope with.
It is common that when people of all ages are stressed for a long time, their immune systems get compromised and as a result they repeatedly get ill. E-therapy helps clients to keep their sessions while protecting the health of the therapist and by extension the health of other clients. Usually, when one’s health is not great, traveling for appointments might feel overwhelming. As such, completing sessions online allows clients and therapists to continue their work, helping clients to effectively take care of themselves, both physically and mentally, which prevents relapsing into old and not-useful habits.
Like many therapists working independently, office spaces and especially executive office spaces are shared by many and different professionals. While there are front desk staff which take over greeting clients, the fact that the faces of front desk staff change on rotation, might prove stressful to clients. As a therapist, I explain to front desk staff the appropriate etiquette for interacting with my clients. I also explain to clients that they only need to announce the reason for their visit: “I have an appointment with Dr. Georgiou Shippi”, and stress that there is no need to disclose any other personal information. As such, this helps to protect clients’ anonymity when showing up for face to face consultation. Virtual therapy removes the middleman, and improves the overall therapeutic experience, since all communication is addressed to the same empathic ear that one cooperates with.
In the wise words of Josh Barnett “If you’re trying to live life, really live it, you should, in my opinion, try to expand all aspects of your life. Open yourself to new ideas and new things even if you find you don’t like them in the end – but at least knowing them has taken you that much further along into being a more experienced and well-rounded person in this world.”