The Growth of Virtual Therapy
Sometime progress in things is gradual and then every now and then it seems to quicken in leaps and bounds.
So it has been with online or virtual therapy. Virtual therapy sessions have steadily been becoming more and more popular for a number of years. Some therapists only work virtually others see clients in person and virtually.
And then the coronavirus pandemic arrives and, perhaps unsurprisingly, online therapy took one giant leap forward.
What had been holding us back?
Some therapists, including myself, had been discouraged from working online by our training organisations. Rapport is key in any personal change work we learnt (absolutely right!) and this is difficult to achieve online (turns out not to be right!).
Governing bodies were initially cautious too, even though studies have been showing that online therapy can be equally effective as in person work. In the end the governing bodies also took the leap and began to offer training, guidance and advice to those therapists looking to get started online.
As well as concerns about rapport, other voices argued against online sessions because of technology concerns. “What if the connection goes down?”. I wonder if some of these concerns were a little outdated, as we’ve certainly moved on a long way since the days of dial-up internet connections and flaky signals.
In reality, in my experience, connection issues are rare and easily resolved by calling the client on their phone if we lose our internet connection. And in the rare case we have a problem, the client moving to a different part of their house or maybe switching to a different device is all that is needed. I consider this sort of thing to be the face to face equivalent of “What if the client gets stuck in traffic and is late?”, answer - we’ll adapt, we’ll work round it, we’ll figure it out!
Online has some advantages
Working online may enable you to see a therapist that’s been recommended to you by a friend, even if that friend lives in a different part of the country, or even another country.
Or if you’re studying or living overseas then you might prefer to work with someone who grew up in the same area as you, so the accent is a familiar one.
Online sessions require the same level of commitment as in person sessions but save travel time and expenses. This may be important if you’ve got a hectic schedule or need to be at home, but have some free time.
You may find the comfort of being in your own surroundings, in your favourite chair with your cat sleeping on your lap to be just the perfect environment for you to work within.
This may be a case when you truly can have your cake and eat it
Of course if you live near the therapist you’ve chosen to work with, you always have the choice of a mixture of in person and virtual sessions.
If you’re attending in person sessions but planning a business or leisure trip or going away to study, then why not switch to online whilst you’re away?
There will always be a choice
In person consultations will always be available. Most therapists love welcoming clients into their office and seeing them in person.
So the growth of virtual therapy gives clients new options of how and where to seek help, which can only be a good thing.