Conducting online therapy sessions may not be the norm. However, the pandemic has pushed many practitioners to consider continuing client therapy online. Have you tried conducting your own online therapy sessions?
It is understandable to have some hesitation at first, especially if this isn’t something you’re used to. Nonetheless, you have to adapt to the times and ensure your clients continue to get the help they need. Understanding the ups and downs of online therapy may help you become more comfortable with it. The real question, though, is whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages?
What Clients Have to Deal With
It’s not easy for many clients to seek counseling or therapy services. Before they decide to get therapy, they have several things to consider, such as:
- Might be worried about people getting to know they are in therapy (might bump into someone in the waiting room)
- Overcoming fear or embarrassment of getting therapy or counseling
- Doing the homework to find reputable local therapy services
- Making sure the practice is covered by insurance (if the client wants his insurance company to pay for therapy)
- And if the sessions are covered, the client has to accept that the diagnosis will go into his health records permanently.
- Most significant of all – staying motivated to continue on with therapy from start to finish; putting in the work necessary; dedication and commitment to getting better.
This is the range of thoughts and emotions a client may go through before he gives you a call or inquires. It really does take courage to take that first step. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to take that step, and most end up not getting the help they need. This is where online therapy can be valuable.
The Benefits of Online Therapy
Online therapy may also be referred to as remote therapy or online counseling. Practitioners or therapists conduct therapy sessions using the Internet. Or in some cases, remote therapy can also include email exchanges between client and practitioner. The bottom line, in-person sessions are absent.
Online counseling comes in to address a number of clients’ concerns. Here’s a list of how it benefits both clients and practitioners:
- A starting point – For those who are apprehensive, online therapy can be a starting point or for some, a way to dip their feet into the water first.
- Eliminates location issues – Clients in rural and remote areas now have access to quality therapy. Often, clients who reside in these areas have to drive hours and hours to go to a therapy session. With online therapy, they can get treatment with ease and convenience.
- Addresses mobility limitations – Clients who are disabled or can’t physically leave home without assistance will find online therapy very helpful. Mobility issues can prevent people from getting help.
- Removes social stigma – Clients need not worry about other people finding out they are getting therapy as they’re doing it in the comfort of their homes.
- Access to more practitioners – Clients now have more options when choosing their therapists. They are no longer geographically bound.
- Comfortable scheduling – Clients can work around their schedules more comfortably. No more adding an extra hour for the travel and commute.
- More affordable – You can now offer their services at a more affordable rate as they remove overhead costs like office space rent.
- Time availability – You may also enjoy more time as you don’t have to travel to and fro the office. More time = more clients you can serve in a day.
- Health first – There’s no reason to risk the health of the client and practitioner. The pandemic is still at large. In-person interactions aren’t recommended at this time. However, that doesn’t mean therapy sessions have to pause or stop.
While online therapy does offer many advantages, it is important to note that this set-up may not work well for every client. Here are some downsides you must know and consider, as well:
- Lack of intimacy – The relationship between a practitioner and a client needs to grow. It is bound by trust and respect. It can be a challenge to achieve this at first. With the lack of in-person sessions and interaction, it can lack intimacy. You may have a harder time discerning your client’s vocal signals, moods, feelings, behaviors, body language, and thoughts.
- Not good for high-risk clients – You may have clients that are profiled as high-risk. They may be diagnosed with serious psychiatric illnesses, which require in-person intervention to administer direct treatment. Online therapy is not recommended nor is it effective for complex situations.
- Data privacy issues – Of course, clients will want to make sure the information they share with you is kept private and confidential. However, being on the Internet always makes you vulnerable to data breaches and hacks.
- Unreliable technology issues – High-speed internet connections aren’t available for everyone, especially those living in remote and rural areas.
- It’s not covered – Online therapy coverage ultimately depends on the insurance company. And in some cases, the insurance company will not allow a practitioner that’s out of state.
- Lack of monitoring of guidelines – As always, it is recommended for clients to do a thorough background check of any practitioner they are considering.
At the End of the Day
Now that you have a clearer picture of the pros and cons of online therapy, you can start planning on how to offer it to your clients. Again, bear in mind that online counseling isn’t the best for everyone, so you will have to segment your clients accordingly.
Also, online therapy will require you to put more effort into finding cues from your client as well as going the extra mile to check in on them. Your relationship with your clients is vital to the success of the therapy program. Keep finding ways to strengthen that and build trust. Tread the path carefully.
At the end of the day, it is about giving the help your client needs, regardless of the medium. It is also your decision if it’s right for you and your client. Nevertheless, it is worth the try. Are you ready to make the transition?
Check out how to do remote therapy effectively and successfully here!