Teletherapy using Video from a Clinician’s Point of View:
1. Teletherapy is not the same as face to face therapy:
As mental health care meets the internet, we are seeing more and more clinicians providing care to their clients through the means of telepsychiatry tools such as video conferencing. A few years ago, video conferencing was a plan B in my practice, reserved for those times when either my clients or I were not able to make it to the office. I felt connected to my clients via video conferencing in our teletherapy sessions, but I attributed that to the fact that our original sessions were face-to-face.
When I was first introduced to teletherapy online for substance abuse/mental health treatment that is strictly conducted via video conferencing, I had some reservations as to how connected the participants and therapists would feel. I am happy to report that teletherapy feels exactly the same as in-person therapy!
After the first 30 seconds or so, once the initial newness wears off, you forget that you are sitting in front of your computer. As the clinician, I am able to assess the client’s body language, eye contact, and verbal content just as I would in person.
Clients report feeling comfortable being in their own space, and are able to be open to the therapeutic process. I find that an additional benefit is that clients are now learning helpful tools via telepsychiatry to cope with their concerns in the environment where they need it most… home.
2. Teletherapy using video is only for those who live in remote areas:
With all the healers, therapists, and counselors out there, it’s easy to think that therapeutic video conferencing would only be for those who do not have easy access to mental health care professionals. While it is true that teletherapy using video conferencing now opens the door to those in remote areas, it also meets the needs of many other people.
We gain the flexibility to work with individuals whose jobs make scheduling in-person therapy difficult, parents who are raising children, teenagers who are in school, college students, couples and families who live in separate locations, folks without transportation, people with physical disabilities, and clients with social anxiety, as well as those who are not comfortable with the social stigma of going to therapy or a treatment center. Now, because of therapeutic video conferencing, there is telemental health program or therapist out there that can work around your life.
3. Teletherapy can feel disconnected:
As I mentioned earlier, the fact that you are actually on your computer seems to vanish within the first minute of teletherapy and it feels as natural as ever. Individual therapy is always meant to be a personal path for a client. Therefore, as long as client and therapist are connected, therapy is working! In terms of group therapy, video conferencing allows for the same compassion, understanding, feedback, and friendship that any face to face group can offer. It ensures confidentiality all while letting clients in different geographical locations learn to trust each other, grow together, and inspire each other.
Technological advances and new therapeutic programs are giving us the opportunity to reach clients in ways that are unimaginable a few years ago. The Telepsychiatry space is still new, and tools such as therapeutic video conferencing allows for confidentiality, a safe container, unconditional positive regard, and the awareness that any client would get in the room. In short, teletherapy using video conferencing retains the benefits of traditional in-person therapy while expanding its range and increasing accessibility.
By: Heather Konopa LMFT