Considering Online Therapy?

Tracey Thomas 25 June 2020

For many years a small number of clients and therapists have been working online while the majority of therapeutic relationships have been conducted face to face. A short while ago that flipped in the UK, with most clients and therapists switching to working together online to support the reduction of the spread of COVID-19.  This means that more therapists than ever before are available for online work. But what is right for you?

Some clients have always appreciated online therapy because it allows them to attend when they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. For example, people who work away from home. Others have accessed therapy online because they want a therapist with a particular skill set that can’t be found in their geographical area.

Some clients have regular face to face therapy and access therapy online or by phone occasionally when away from home.  Others would rather take a break from therapy when away from home as for them, the therapy room, the journey to and from the room and the experience of having a break are important parts of the therapeutic process.

Many professional organisations are saying that many people would benefit from mental health support as a result of the stress and anxiety that they are experiencing due to the response to COVID-19. At the same time, there are fewer face to face sessions available while many therapists continue to work only online to reduce the spread of the disease.

So what might be helpful to consider if you are weighing up on line therapy now versus waiting to have face to face therapy?

  • What is it that you need just now?

Were you generally happy with life “before” but the stress that many are currently feeling means that you could do with some help just now? Will waiting be unhelpful?

  • What is it that you want in the longer term?

Do you have a long term difficulty that you want to address that the current situation has highlighted in a way that has led you to realise that you want help now? Would one or two sessions at this time be helpful so that you can deal with what is most pressing? Could you then leave the therapeutic door open to come back to the longer term difficulties when you have more energy and can meet face to face? Will tackling the difficulty once everything else has calmed down be more helpful?

  • How do you feel about online interaction?

What has been your experience of online interactions before and during lock down? How comfortable do you feel interacting with people online? To what extent have you noticed yourself interacting differently one to one online than you would in person? How have your recent interactions left you feeling about meeting people online? To what extent might working with a therapist online, help you with your day to day online interactions or hinder you from building a relationship with your therapist?

  • How free will you be to speak?

Where will you have your online conversations with your therapist? How safe does that space feel to you? What concerns do you have about being overheard?  What will be the impact on you if you are not able to speak freely to your therapist? How might you overcome this? Where could you go safely with sufficient Wi-Fi signal or data coverage to have these conversations?

  • How will you transition back to your household role?

What will happen immediately after the end of a session? Where will you be? Who else will be there? What will you expect of yourself? What space can you give yourself if you need some time to collect your thoughts? How much freedom will you have to be sad / angry / self absorbed if that is what you need for a little while? To what extent can you park these thoughts and feelings until later in the day? Could you take a walk straight afterwards to give yourself some time to think?

In stereotypical therapist fashion, I am giving you lots of questions but not many answers. I hope that some of these questions might be helpful in developing your thinking and moving you towards making a useful decision.