Written by: Anuja Patel, Psy.D.
Due to the pandemic, this year has been different in all sorts of ways, and if you’re a mental health professional or a client, the mode of therapy has changed too. Teletherapy or virtual therapy sessions aren’t a new concept, but many mental health professionals and clients have been forced to adapt to a new way of connecting and providing/seeking help.
When I first started teletherapy this year, I was worried how virtual sessions would impact my ability to connect with my clients. Having done video teletherapy sessions only when necessary, I wasn’t used to seeing all of my clients virtually, especially in such a stressful period. I was concerned video sessions wouldn’t be able to capture nuances, provide a safe space, or allow me to create a deep bond with my clients. Many of my clients also had their concerns, whether it was an issue with privacy, space, or connection (emotional and technological).
However, I found that once my adult clients and I became comfortable with virtual therapy (and accepted that this was the best option this year), the concerns I had regarding my ability to provide comfort and create a bond started to dissipate. Here are some reasons why virtual therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy:
- A strong therapeutic relationship is important for any type of therapy to be effective, and I have found virtual therapy doesn’t impact my ability to maintain that relationship with existing clients or establish one with new clients. The core factors needed for this therapeutic alliance are not dependent upon the licensed therapist and client occupying the same physical space and can easily be established remotely. So, if you’re worried about starting therapy during the pandemic, understand that the fundamental characteristics that enable a strong therapeutic relationship can still be present through virtual sessions.
- Since virtual therapy would take place in a familiar environment for clients, it can help clients feel safer and more secure to discuss sensitive or traumatic topics. In the comfort of their own home, clients can feel more in control of their environment and perhaps be more open to exploring their emotions. Having said that, it’s still important to find a space that is free of distraction and provides the same privacy as a face to face meeting in a therapist’s office.
- Virtual therapy services allow for the convenience that in-person sessions might not. Let’s face it, with our busy lives it’s nice not having to carve out the extra 15-30 minutes to drive to appointments. It also makes therapy accessible to working parents, clients in areas with limited providers, or clients who are moving and can no longer have in-person sessions with their current therapist.
- I know many clients feel like the therapeutic relationship is a one-sided relationship and they don’t know much about their therapists. Due to the pandemic, clients have the opportunity to see the more “human” side of their therapists in which they realize we also have “those days,” where pets or children are running into the office during an online therapy session, or when Wi-Fi or internet connection stops working in the most inopportune moment. Now probably more than before, clients can see that therapists relate to those daily life frustrations that are discuss in sessions.
I understand that in-person sessions have unique benefits and provide a feel that virtual therapy may not be able to replicate, and by now many of us have “Zoom burnout.” But virtual therapy can still capture some of that essence and effectively meet the goals of therapy. At a time like this where we are more vulnerable to isolation, depression, anxiety, and relationship issues, virtual therapy allows clients to seek services or continue meeting with their therapist with no disruption.