Online therapy. E-therapy. Telemental health. However you describe it, it’s not the first thing that jumps to mind when most people think of therapy. They might know of Freud, think of laying down on a couch, or maybe they picture the typical cozy office space that most therapists utilize. With the prevalence of digital devices over the last 5 to 10 years, it may come as no surprise that some pioneering therapists decided to ask, “can I use this technology to help patients?” Researchers were up to the task of investigating that question, and they have primarily found it to be equally effective to its face to face counterpart for many mental health diagnoses. So what are some reasons someone would choose to use online therapy instead of visiting an office?
We all lead busy lives, and many would say they spend too much time in the car. After having 2+ hour commutes when I lived outside of Washington, DC, less time in the car was certainly a priority for me when we moved to Florida. After commuting to work, running errands all day, or carting the kids to soccer practice, who wants to spend more time in the car to visit their therapist? Technology allows sessions to happen in the comfort of your own home, in your car (NOT while driving!), or even on your lunch break, It’s much easier to squeeze 45 minutes into your schedule without needing to account for the drive time.
For those who live in heavily populated areas, like Pinellas County, this may not be an issue as there are many therapists to choose from. Unfortunately, those people who live further out are forced to choose either a long drive to meet with someone, or possibly just forgoing treatment altogether for lack of options. Online therapy opens up access to therapists from anywhere across the state.
The things patients choose to share in therapy are intimate and deserve to be kept absolutely secret. With in-person treatment, patients may have concerns about running into someone they know in the waiting room, or what to say if they meet their therapist out in public. With onilne treatment, there is no waiting room, and you can choose a therapist hundreds of miles away if you never want to see their face in public. When choosing an online therapist, make sure they are using a HIPAA compliant service (not Skype), to ensure maximum confidentiality on the technology end.
I was skeptical at first because there is so much that comes from being in the room with someone. When I meet with a patient in my physical office, I can see their nonverbal reaction to our discussion, or I can provide a comforting touch when needed. While some of this is lost online, I’ve found that it’s absolutely possible to develop a strong therapeutic relationship, and there are even some benefits. Being “with” a patient in their house can provide them a sense of comfort they never would find at my office. It also allows for treatment to happen in their “real world,” so the things we discuss in therapy can carry over more easily into their daily life. Additionally, instead of coming up with a helpful task to do after session, I can be there while a patient walks through the process of doing the task, helping them address any obstacles that may arise. The more I’ve learned about online therapy, the more excited I’ve become to add it to my own practice.
If you think it sounds intriguing or you have questions you’d like to discuss, please feel free to send me an e-mail or give me a call. And if you’re ready to take the plunge, set up an appointment with me at www.itherapy.com/kevin-hyde I look forward to meeting you!