To Telehealth or not to Telehealth? The benefits of virtual therapy and how to make the most of it.
Author: Lisa Himelstieb, LCPC
Editor: Julie Raymond, LCPC
The global pandemic has brought on many unexpected changes to our everyday lives and the normalcy that once was. Therapy for the first time, has shifted from the dominant platform of being in person to virtual therapy or Tele-therapy. Tele-therapy has become the new norm in the field of psychology as our culture shifts to adapt to the changes in our world faced by the global pandemic.
This shift in how we do therapy has brought on some new challenges and also new ways of doing therapy that we once weren’t able to do. It is true, using technology as a way to do therapy can create less vulnerability and intimacy in the therapeutic relationship, but in other ways it is also able to create a new sense of vulnerability in therapy, such as seeing a person’s home, or pets. It has also opened doors to making it easier than ever to do therapy. For some, a barrier to starting therapy might have been time commitment, or feeling it was too scary to meet a complete stranger in person. Being virtual can make people more comfortable in starting therapy from the comfort of their homes. It also allows for flexibility in committing to weekly therapy whether it be in between a work day or during a child’s nap or not having to commute to an office.
One common question that has been asked during these times is, “Is Tele-health (virtual) therapy effective? The answer is YES!!
Transitioning to virtual therapy sessions have allowed our clients to continue to work with their therapists towards their short-term and long-term goals as well as addressing new issues that may have arose due to the impact of the pandemic. The therapeutic relationship mentioned before can actually be stronger through virtual therapy. This is because we are living through a shared experience as well as being able to see parts of the clients’ lives outside the confines of our office walls. Pets, decorations, pictures, or books that have been talked about in past in-person sessions can be shown off and included in therapy unlike before. Also, being within the comfort of one’s home where the client feels safe can allow for deeper work to be done with them feeling more relaxed and inviting for this work. It also has allowed for being more creative in therapy interventions such as exposure work in someone’s home or holding someone accountable to do a daily chore.
With the continued impact of the pandemic, we have also seen a rise in struggling or worsening symptoms of anxiety, depression, substance use, OCD, or eating disorders. This may have been worsened by the pandemic impacting work stress, loss of job, illness of self or family member(s), financial issues, parenting stress, etc. Therapy is helpful for those experiencing increased symptoms and beginning therapy has never been easier!
During this time of uncertainty, it has shown us all that we are more resilient than we thought and we can overcome and get through challenging life situations we never thought we would be going through. Transitioning to virtual therapy has allowed clients to continue to make progress and have opportunities for growth and positive change.