We live in a world that is increasingly possible thanks to new technologies, so why not?The truth is that online therapy is not for everyone.
There will be people who feel more comfortable working with one approach than with another and in the same way, there will be those who prefer to move to the office and have the experience of going face-to-face : take their seat, recognize the smells, the light and all the accumulation of sensations that can appear when facing the therapist.
Conversely, there will be others who enjoy taking their therapy more from the comfort of their home or with the practicality of making a phone call or connecting to Skype, Zoom or any other video conferencing platform.
We have identified some pros and cons.
What it is?
The changes in society, the demands that are presented in it and the opportunities that they offer us grow every day, has made it possible to expand scope of professional practice in ever greater areas and places. The limits that define human relationships have been modified successively with time, socio-economic changes and the advancement of technology. Lately we have had to experience the beginning of “virtual reality”.
It emerges as a therapeutic modality that aims to bring the patient closer through current technologies. Help is offered through emails, real-time chat, video conference or by combining several of the above. Some patients use online psychotherapy in conjunction with traditional face-to-face. It is real therapy, since there is real contact between the client and the therapist, albeit in a “virtual” space.
It is easily accessible, to carry it out you need to be connected to the internet, have a computer, mobile or tablet.
It can be carried out anywhere, from the comfort of home or in a free hour at work. Many people feel safer talking about themselves in a place known to them. Also in very large cities, it is easier because it avoids having to go to the therapist’s office.
People who live far from their country and are in one where they do not speak the same language find it more attractive to do online therapy with a person from their country, since expressing emotions and experiences is easier for them in their mother language.
This is very useful because in the opinion of people, they consider that although they speak the language very well, emotions are not transmitted in the same way, for this reason they seek help from someone who speaks their mother language.
People who already have a therapeutic process but they or their therapist change place of living, also make use of new technologies so as not to cut the therapeutic process even after changing their place of residence. Generally this happens when they have been working together for some time and the relationship with the therapist is very solid, and they prefer not to stop it.
People with a physical limitation who cannot easily move to the office can take it, in this way they will be able to access their treatment in a more comfortable way.
In summary, what are the main advantages?
- The physical limitations disappear
Distances no longer matter. One may be in Spain and the other in USA
It can make it easier to handle cases with people who would not normally go to regular mental health services (for whatever reason)
- Psychological support in more rural areas
Psychologists are not common in small rural towns, so online therapy breaks down many barriers.
- Access for people with physical limitations
According to the UKTherapyGuide there are people who are unable or have difficulties leaving their home (due to physical limitations or agoraphobia disorders are common examples). Sometimes online therapy becomes the only viable option.
- Lower cost
Savings on travel, for example
- Greater flexibility of schedules
By removing the shifts, more time is also freed
- Support groups
Online support groups can be created, among people with a similar problem, in a way that would be almost impossible in person, unless they all lived in a very large city.
The main disadvantage that we have identified is when technology fails us: the connection drops, the battery of one of the devices ends or an automatic system update plays tricks on us.
The space that the patient has to carry out the therapy is important, sometimes it is in an open or noisy place, this makes it difficult for the patient to express himself freely since he can worry more about the people around him not listen to it.
Another drawback may be privacy: not everyone has space at home to isolate themselves for an hour to freely talk about their privacy. What if the person does not feel free to talk about problems of living with his partner, or even abuse, because he fears that his partner is listening behind the door?
For many reasons, part of the frame that is given to the patient when starting an online therapy session is about how appropriate the space chosen for it is.
To avoid difficulties in this regard, it is very important that before starting it, there is a clear framework in which the commitments of both parts of the relationship are established: therapist and patient; in this way both will be informed about their responsibility in the therapeutic process.
And of course, that the right conditions exist.
Not everyone can take advantage of online therapy. And this cannot be denied by any psychologist who has approved his university credits in the subjects of Psychological Interview Techniques.
In general, online therapy is a very useful tool for people who feel comfortable using technology and who prefer it due to their specific circumstances. But you can work very well in online therapy, and let’s be clear: it is better to have online therapy than not to have therapy.
In short, the main problems that we can face with online therapy, things that we must be careful with or even reasons to avoid online therapy if necessary:
-Privacy problems at home
-It is not recommended for certain psychiatric psychopathologies or serious mental disorders
-Confidentiality at risk from computer hackers
-Online psychologists cannot assist you in crisis situations
-Online scams: Is that person really trained in psychology?
Whether online or in person, psychological therapy depends largely on the commitment and willingness of both the patient and the therapist, as it is a team effort.