What is Online Therapy?
Online therapy, through videoconferencing with Skpe and other encrypted digital software makes it possible to access a mental health professional remotely and to have a session over video. This type of online counseling is also known colloquially as “Web Therapy”.
First, let’s cover the benefits. Some individuals use videoconferencing out of necessity-they live in rural areas or in geographic locals that have a shortage of mental health clinicians. These clients now have access to therapy where before consistent therapeutic treatment would not have been possible. Also, bad weather, illness and business trips no longer have to interfere with treatment. In addition, if the client or the patient moves, the therapeutic relationship can be maintained. This is especially crucial since the therapeutic relationship is so much of what heals psychological distress.
An argument can also be made that certain conditions might be well-suited to online treatment, such as agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and severe depression since the symptoms of these conditions sometimes makes it very difficult for these patients to leave the house.
Others disagree. Some therapists report that there is “something lost” when the person is not in the clinical space of the office. Some therapists believe that videotherapy creates emotional distance, and thus therapeutic rapport is more difficult to establish. Patients find it difficult to let down their guard and take emotional risks. Some of these difficulties are simply the result of the limitations of the technology. Online counseling disrupts a basic foundation of the therapeutic connection: eye contact. Patients and therapist typically look at each other’s face on the computer screen, but since the camera is usually perched on top the computer, their gazes are off-kilter. Sessions are also often cut off due to internet disconnections and sometimes the sound moves slower than the video, degrading the therapeutic experience.
There is a place for Online Therapy. If an individual lives in a remote location, has a travelling job or a debilitating condition that makes it impossible to leave the house, then online therapy is appropriate. I am most comfortable using this modality with current clients that I already have a rapport with who have perhaps moved out of the area, or cannot attend frequent sessions due to travelling. I am not opposed to Online Therapy with a new patient, but I would need to have a telephone assessment first with the potential client to see if it would be appropriate for that individual.
Finding an Online Therapist
If you are interested in online therapy and do not already have a relationship with your therapist, it is important to find someone who is licensed in your state and has experience with teletherapy since there is an art to it, and you want someone who knows how to avoid the therapeutic pitfalls.
If you are struggling to cope with depression, interested in therapy or counseling in Newport Beach, Irvine or Orange County, or want to find out if you are a candidate for online therapy, please contact Jennifer De Francisco at (949) 251-8797.