This ever changing world has really taught us how capable we are of adapting. The availability of online options for many therapies has been accelerated by the recent lockdown situation.
Provided you have stable enough internet connection, suitable privacy and don’t already feel totally zoomed out, you might be wondering whether online therapy may be a convenient option for you, temporarily or long-term.
Habitually, we may feel that most human interactions are best when they are experienced in person. Whether you are using Zoom, Skype, or any of the many other available video chat technologies, therapeutic communication can seem more challenging when you and your therapist aren’t in the same room. Physical presence and all that goes along with it, subtle visual cues, scents, chemistry—just isn’t the same as an image and a voice online.
Technological issues can become a barrier. Dropped calls, frozen videos, and trouble accessing chats aren’t conducive to treatment. It may be difficult to form a therapeutic alliance for some when meetings aren’t face-to-face, both therapist and client may miss out on body language and other cues that we take for granted when we meet person to person.
Despite such concerns, research consistently shows that online treatment can be very effective for many physical and emotional health issues. For example studies published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that internet based mental health intervention was just as effective as face-to-face treatment for people with anxiety disorders, depression and PTSD. Individuals with anxiety, especially social anxiety, are more likely to reach out to an online therapist.
Video therapy can be more intimate than regular therapy, in the comfort of your own home you can have your cosy blanket, your special mug, all the things that make you feel at ease. What better start to therapy and opening up than in your safe space? It has come as a pleasant surprise for me that most clients find this quite reassuring and it seems to suit their particular nervous system and story.
For instance for clients with difficulty being physically close to others for any reason, whether personality-based, the result of trauma, abuse or bullying, or for other reasons, online therapy often feels safer. There can be a greater sense of control. When you are on your own turf, the power dynamic may feel more even.
Time is perhaps our most precious resource. Unexpected traffic often leads clients to race in, anxious about being late or missing any part of their therapy time. As such, commutes can be frustrating and stressful for clients already prone to anxiety. People with transport difficulties, especially those in rural areas, may have easier access to online therapy provided of course that they have connectivity in more remote places.
Disabled populations can be major beneficiaries of online treatment options: In many scenarios, those who are bed-ridden or have chronic illness may welcome the convenience of an online context. Additionally, regarding privacy, as a client you don’t have to worry about seeing people you might know in the waiting room.
In my personal experience, just like during in-person sessions, online we focus on developing our body-mind awareness. Somatic Movement Therapy as well as bodywork supports us to draw our attention inward, connect more deeply with our physical and emotional body sensations. Together we aim to find specific ways for you to recognise wellness and ease as well as release pain, stagnation, stress, and unresolved trauma.
I welcome the level of personal warmth and interaction that is possible during online one-on-one sessions, working very specifically with individual needs as they arise through the flat screen. Alongside invaluable dialogue any combination of writing or drawing, movement or rhythms, sounding, visualising, rituals, dreams or associations are possible during your online session and help to give shape and form to what wants to surface. In my exploration of somatic or body-oriented therapy delivered through cyber space, I have discovered amongst the many benefits, how attuned clients can experience deep relaxation, energy shifts, adrenal relief and pain release when I worked with them through distant and intended touch.
To maintain the integrity of your therapeutic relationship, video-therapy relies intently on using our social engagement system. Facial expression, eye contact, tone of voice and the body language which we usually pick up from each other naturally, requires more of a conscious effort when online, this provides an opportunity to really hone in on what is being expressed and bring special awareness to how we express ourselves.
As a person who has always really valued the in-person experience with many doubts around the effectiveness of replacing such an intimate experience with a screen, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that online therapy works, perhaps not as a direct replacement but rather as a different experience with many inherent benefits and equally, challenges, of its own. I recommend each person to explore whatever mix of on- and off-line therapy accommodates their individual needs best and I hope this article will support your choices.
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