Mid-March of 2020, when it became clear that I could not in good conscience continue to see clients in person, possibly endangering their health and my own, I moved exclusively to phone and video psychotherapy sessions (collectively referred to as telehealth, teletherapy, or online therapy) until it is safe to resume in-office visits.
Given my years of experience with phone sessions, this was not a huge transition for me. In fact, I’ve found that clients sometimes prefer telehealth to office visits, even when given the choice.
Some advantages of online therapy:
- No commute. If you live, as I do, in a sprawling, large city, a drive of just a few miles can take close to an hour during rush hour. The same principle applies if you reside in a remote location, without quality mental health professionals near you. While the time spent sitting in one’s car can be used productively and creatively, such as listening to podcasts or simply to one’s thoughts. However, none of us has over 24 hours in a day, eliminating the commute by simply picking up one’s phone or one’s computer for a telehealth session can be a huge time-saver. In addition, some clients don’t have access to reliable transportation. Online therapy eliminates this obstacle.
- More time options for appointments. Whether you have an hour to devote to therapy in the morning, mid-afternoon, or evening, online therapy makes it possible to maximize your time and then get back to the rest of your life without necessitating a break of several hours. So, you might be working remotely from home, have a break between meetings, and get the therapeutic support just when you need it, such as when you’re able to talk with your spouse, child, or a colleague. When at their place of work, some of my clients have closed the door to their office, gone to their car, taken a walk, or sat in a park while on a telehealth session with me.
- Ability to attend therapy from the comfort of your own home or wherever you are. If you go out of town, it is often possible for us to arrange online therapy sessions, so you can continue the therapeutic process without interruption. Travel, whether it be for pleasure or work, can present unique psychological challenges, and therapy can be particularly grounding during this time.
- Ability to attend sessions when sick, injured, or dealing with a physical disability. When you’re dealing with a bad cold or worse, it’s often all you can do to get out of bed in the morning, eat breakfast, and take a shower. The same goes for being laid up with a broken leg or sprained wrist. Online therapy sessions allow you to access the help you need without exerting the extra effort to get to my office.
- Ability to attend sessions when you’re depressed or anxious. Depression tends to decrease our motivation to take action on our own behalf. Anxiety is often accompanied by a tendency to shrink away from anything that might involve some effort on our part. Social anxiety may make it extremely difficult for you to venture beyond familiar, comfortable settings. Since depression and anxiety are two of the most common reasons people seek therapy, it is a cruel irony that sometimes people suffering from these conditions struggle with actually following through with scheduling and attending therapy sessions. Yet it is understandable. Telehealth can remove some of the perceived effort involved in participating in therapy.
- Less need to obtain childcare during sessions. For clients with children who don’t need constant supervision, telehealth can allow you to attend therapy sessions without getting a babysitter.
- Decreased risk of contracting or transmitting infection. In this age of COVID-19, a tremendously contagious virus, leaving your home and attending in-person sessions with your therapist may place both parties at increased risk of becoming or sharing illness. While I will implement sanitizing protocols once it is relatively safe to return to in-person sessions, the fact remains that especially for medically vulnerable populations, telehealth is the safer choice.
Numerous research studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of telehealth. For instance, an analysis conducted in 2010 suggested that distance-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression may rival in-person therapy in its effectiveness.
Telehealth can be an excellent option for people who have difficulty attending psychotherapy sessions in person. Also, online therapy can enable you to practice appropriate safety measures during the COVID-19 or flu season. I encourage you to give it a try.