In the COVID quarantine we have become comfortable with tele-meetings, tele-family gatherings, tele-school and tele-everything else.
We socialize via video chats all the time now. We have celebrated major milestones this way and, tragically, said goodbye to our closest relatives via iPads in the ICUs of our hospitals.
And for years we have also utilized tools for psychology and therapy to facilitate visits when we can’t be face to face. But those tools have really come into their own in this era of long-distance socializing.
The benefits of online therapy
Even before quarantine, online therapy was growing in significance and use. With the greater availability of online tools and the understanding that nearly everyone has a smartphone, we are more connected in some ways than ever before.
The tools for getting online with our therapist are common to us now. Instead of having to buy a camera for our computer and manage some unusual portal at a link provided by our therapist’s management group, we just FaceTime.
Instead of a time-consuming and inconvenient commute, you can dial in at the intended time. This makes a visit more convenient and efficient than ever.
Meeting by Zoom also protects you against a potentially embarrassing encounter in the waiting room with an acquaintance. No more having to make the fast decision. Should I pretend I don’t see them and ignore them? Should I engage in the trivial small talk? Or should I go ahead and give them details about the major issues I am trying to work out in my life, then worry for months about who they might have told?
Also, meeting online has allowed therapists to be more flexible with their time. Many therapists have used this flexibility to their advantage, and passed it along to their patients in the form of expanded evening or weekend hours. This means more people have a chance to talk at a time that is convenient for them, from the comfort of their own home.
Downsides of online therapy
Of course, therapists typically meet online for a variety of reasons.
The office space creates an oasis of sorts, for both of you.
For you, being transported to a different room, designed especially for the purpose of being open about your experiences and traumas, helps open you as a patient. A familiar location can provide cues that help you feel psychologically more comfortable with sharing and remembering the past.
For them, your clinical therapist has tools available in their office that are unlikely to be present in your home. Your therapist has a shelf full of books to use as a resource when you need a prompt or better understanding of a concept. They likely have comfortable pillows and a deep couch that allow you to feel safer and become more vulnerable. Some therapists use light and darkness as part of their approach, and they might have special light bars or projection walls that help focus your attention to allow your mind to roam down new, unexplored paths.
Additionally, being away from home has other advantages. In quarantine especially, it might be hard to find a time and place in your house where you can truly have privacy. It is hard to explore challenging ideas and to reveal embarrassments and trauma if you are constantly worried that the wrong person might overhear. This can make your house a far less productive place to work out deeper issues.
Also, sometimes your issues directly involve the people in your house. Getting away to be certain they do not overhear can be a crucial part of your therapy.
Without these tools, your therapy experience might be incomplete or less intensive than if it happened in a therapist’s office.
What are some tools used for distance therapy?
Therapists have a wide range of tools at their disposal to assist with distance therapy.
First, many use online scheduling tools like Calendly or Acuity to allow you to schedule your own appointment at a time that works for both of you.
Next, you and your therapist can agree on which chat tool to use. This can include, but is not limited to
- Google Hangout
- Go To Meeting
The primary guide in choosing a method to meet is finding one you are both familiar with. One effect of quarantine is that we are all much more comfortable with the tools. We also are less prone to panic if one method isn’t working for some reason, and we can quickly work around the problem to make sure the session goes on as scheduled.
Finally, your therapist likely has taken advantage of the many different ways that people can exchange money electronically. Instead of billing monthly through mail, you are likely to pay using one of these convenient apps:
- Cash App
With so many easy ways to schedule and meet with your therapist, there is no reason to not explore getting the therapy you need online this week.
Many therapists, like Sakina Issa, offer free consultations to help you find a good fit.
Do you have a challenging relationship problem that is costing you sleep, or robbing you of your sense of independence? You likely will benefit from talking to a licensed therapist like Sakina Issa.
Luckily, these conversations can happen discreetly and by appointment using the same tools you have grown comfortable using at work, like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Just click the button in the upper right hand corner.
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