People often start psychotherapy because they’re facing unprecedented challenges and are feeling overwhelmed. Sounds a lot like the times we’re living in, doesn’t it? The ongoing disruption and uncertainty from the coronavirus outbreak are exactly what would compel many people to seek out a therapist.
And yet unfortunately, social distancing has forced therapists to temporarily close their doors. Even patients who were already in therapy no longer have the option of being in the same room with their therapist.
Thankfully, therapy may still be available to those who need it. Many therapists offer online therapy sessions through video conference (called “teletherapy”), so if you have a computer and an Internet connection, teletherapy may be an option for you.
I’ve been providing teletherapy services for the past 10 years, and have found it to be an effective way to bring treatment to people who lived too far away to see me in person. In fact, several months ago I transitioned to doing all of my sessions through video conference. (Long story—I’m recovering from a longstanding health issue.)
There’s good evidence that teletherapy works, which has been my experience as a therapist. I’ve seen it help with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, insomnia, relationship issues, grief, and trauma. I’ve led patients in guided meditation through teletherapy, developed plans with them for facing their fears, and reviewed their sleep data together. I’ve witnessed powerful emotional breakthroughs as people revisited their trauma memories. I’ve cried with patients as they shared their hurts and grief.
And while I haven’t been on the receiving end of teletherapy, I’ve been helped enormously through other video conference meetings, including vocal therapy, nutritional counseling, and personal coaching. In fact, a single Zoom session with a skilled coach led to some of the most profound life changes that I’ve made.
Of course, teletherapy isn’t exactly the same as in-person therapy. Obviously, you’re seeing a digital representation of your therapist instead of a three-dimensional flesh-and-blood person – and being together virtually feels different than being in the same room. It may seem like a small point, but I miss being able to extend the small but meaningful gesture of handing my patient a tissue if they cry.
Sometimes there are problems with the technology that can be frustrating, like a delay that causes you and your therapist to keep interrupting each other. But in my experience the tech side doesn’t tend to be a problem, and any issues that come up can be handled with patience and a little humor.
If you’re thinking of teletherapy for yourself, find a therapist who offers online sessions. Many more are now doing it because of social distancing, and may not have updated their websites yet to show that they offer it, so it may be worth calling therapists even if they don’t advertise teletherapy services.