Five months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all adjusting to this “new normal” of staying connected virtually as a replacement for in-person services, including online therapy. Although advantages to seeing a therapist live in an office could include a more holistic experience and perhaps increased privacy, there are also many benefits to online therapy. Aside from the convenience of not having to drive to an office, find parking, and risk someone seeing you enter a therapist’s office, the benefits of online therapy can be more productive and effective in helping you move toward needed and/or desired personal changes. This article will identify the many clinical benefits of online therapy, especially from your home environment. Below are some of the advantages listed:
- The therapist is on a screen in real time offering support or guidance in helping you to acquire the skills you want to change. For example, if you struggle with problematic drinking, with the therapist on the screen, you may feel more accountable to discard your alcohol supply while your therapist waits on hold. After completing this sometimes challenging task, with the therapist right there on the screen, you can then process your feelings about it right away rather than having to wait a week and try to recall the details of this new behavior. The same holds true for other issues that can be remedied directly in your home without having to travel back to your home first and possibly lose the motivation to implement changes.
- If you have a lot of anxiety that gets triggered by something in the home setting, you can practice applying coping skills in real time while the symptoms are emerging instead of having to wait to discuss the symptoms in the therapist’s office. Sometimes in situations like this it is easy to forego or postpone needed changes and therefore risking making things more uncomfortable for yourself.
- It makes it easier to involve a family member or partner in your therapeutic journey (if needed). When your sessions are being conducted online and you are at home, you can easily just call them into the room for some or all of a session without the need to coordinate schedules for them to come to the office with you.
- If you are struggling with issues of anxiety or trauma, having sessions in your home environment could add an additional feeling of safety due to your home being a familiar setting. If you feel safe at home, it will help you be more honest and vulnerable, therefore increasing the emotional value of your therapy. Online sessions at home also help cut back on unnecessary stress that may be caused by getting stuck in traffic, having sessions postponed due to inclement weather, or any added discomfort that comes from waiting in a generic room that is not your own.
- If you have a pet (i.e. cat, dog), seeing your therapist on a screen allows you to hold or touch your pet for added comfort while the session is happening in real time whereas clients would usually not be permitted to bring pets to a therapist’s office with them. The same holds true to some other object in your home that makes you feel safe and comfortable.
- With having online therapy in your home, another plus is the opportunity to show the therapist things in the home that may be relevant to the issues you are discussing in therapy. For example, if you struggle with issues of disorganization, you can show the therapist, through your camera, what certain rooms in their home look like that may pertain to these problems and receive feedback from the therapist with them having a more visual description of the room in question rather than having the sometimes arduous task of having to describe the setting to the therapist if you were only meeting the therapist in an office setting. Additionally, if you want the therapist to see something, such as a letter, you will have full access to it at your home and not have to remember to bring it to the office or risk losing it in transit.
What about the therapy itself? Some clients ask if counseling can be just as effective if it is online compared to meeting with them in an office. The process of the therapy itself is obviously a little different, but just as effective and sometimes can be more effective as previously illustrated. There are also research studies about the benefits of online therapy too, allowing this mode of therapy to be a lot easier to trust. Almost anything that can be accomplished in the therapy room can be translated to an online format, minus the in-person human interaction which at this point in the pandemic, can be a health risk. For example, if your therapist recommends that you read something or complete a worksheet, all of this can be sent to you via a secure portal. Furthermore, if there is something that needs to be found on the Internet, it is easy for the therapist to send you website addresses without having to write things down in the therapist’s office and possibly losing it. Both you and the therapist can also share your screen and view online information that the two of you can discuss together in real time. Another therapeutic advantage to online therapy is that if you struggle with writing a certain email or some other task, while you are at home, the therapist can help walk you through it on the spot so you do not have to follow through with certain tasks while on your own.
The issue of privacy and security is a valid concern when it comes to your therapy. It is important to know that all therapeutic sessions are held on HIPAA compliant platforms which are designed to provide the highest standard of client privacy. These online platforms are specifically designed to assure clients that what they say, write, or send on these sites cannot be interfered with by others in “cyberspace.” If you are concerned about confidentiality in relation to someone else breaking in and getting a copy of the conversation between you and your therapist, the security of a HIPAA compliant platform makes that almost impossible.
In conclusion, there are many parallels between the benefits of online therapy compared to receiving therapy in a therapist’s office. If you are ambivalent about considering online therapy, please keep the above-mentioned factors in mind. To schedule an appointment, please see our website at www.therapyinphiladelphia.com or call (215) 922-5683.