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The internet has slowly been transforming everything about our life, and now it has taken on therapy. Traveling to sit with a therapist on a couch is no longer what therapy has to be about. Yes, even something as sensitive as therapy can be accessed from… your smartphone. Some people may scoff at this and say that there is no way that it would be anywhere near close to the real thing, but I am here to say that it can be just as effective as the real thing. In my blog post today, I will explore why online therapy is slowing becoming the norm, why it can be a great option for you, and also what to expect you go for it.
Online therapy is also known as teletherapy, online counseling, distance therapy, internet therapy, e-therapy, telehealth, telebehavioral health, email therapy, text therapy, phone counseling.. the list can probably go on for awhile. Basically, online therapy means that you attend therapy sessions by internet, using either your computer or your smart phone. There are options to meet with your therapist by video conference, by audio/phone, through live texting, or email based counseling. My blog post today is focused on the most popular online therapy modality, which is video based online counseling. Stay tuned for future blog posts to elaborate on the other models, including email based therapy which I offer in my online practice as well.
Working online with your therapist means no need to commute to a brick and mortar office. It means scheduling a session during your lunch break, on a half day of work, or in the early evening or morning before or after your work day. It means saving half the time that would otherwise have to be put toward therapy, engaging in therapy from a place that you are already comfortable in, and not having to put on pants (kidding! Or am I?) Most of us live in busy cities and have crazy schedules and getting around by car or public transportation takes precious time and adds unnecessary frustration to our already hectic days. Why put yourself through this havoc when there are so many counselors out there right now trying to bulk up their online practice?
Choosing a therapist can be pretty tough especially if there aren’t many in your area to begin with. Therapy is extremely personal and intimate, you don’t want to have to go with the only one that has availability. You want to find someone that you feel comfortable with, because you are setting yourself up for failure if you decide to start counseling with someone that you already feel unsure and nervous about. What is really great is that most online therapists have a strong internet and social media presence so you can really do your research before you make your choice. When you open yourself up to online options, you can search and find the one therapist that resonates the most with you in your state -- from their treatment style, to their specialties, to their personal qualities. Many online therapists offer free consultations (like me!), so definitely take advantage of that!
Many insurance companies are opening their doors to reimbursing or accepting ‘telemental health’ services which is really great news. If you are hoping to use your insurance, having online therapy as an option gives you the opportunity to work with a much greater selection than the few, fully booked therapists available in your area. With online counseling, you can work with anyone licensed in your state.
With more and more jobs going remote and online based or requiring frequent travel between cities, it can make it very hard for many people to stay in one place in order to dedicate themselves to their therapy process. It is important that your therapy appointments are consistent, otherwise you lose progress and time to having to relearn strategies and fill your therapist in on all that he or she has missed. When you have your therapy set up online, a week away from home doesn’t have to mean a week away from your treatment. This also goes for if you find yourself sick on the day of your appointment- with online therapy, you can show up and not worry about getting your therapist sick, too.
Many live far from the busy bustle of the city in hopes of having a more peaceful day to day life, and just as many live far from the city unwillingly, because of a job or other restraints. Traditionally this would mean a small selection of therapists to choose from and far distances to drive to get to therapy. As I have already previously mentioned, opting for online therapy will provide you with greater selection of therapists, and no need to drive. This deserves its own specialized paragraph though, because those in rural areas are so frequently forgotten about, and they often have a high need for counseling as a result of their isolation- especially if it wasn’t their choice to live far away in the first place.
Online Therapy to Treat your Anxiety in the Setting the Matters Therapy offices are often inviting and tranquil, you enter the room and immediately feel relaxed and open, and many times your anxiety or depression that brought you in suddenly isn’t as strong as it used to be, and it doesn’t all seem so bad. Then you return home.
Another great reason to choose an online therapist is because your therapist will help you learn how to cope in the setting that often tends to trigger you. From your work office, from your home. This makes your work in therapy much more likely to generalize to the places that matter the most to you.
Okay, so enough of the perks! Let’s move onto what to expect.
Your online based therapist will work through one of the many private video conferencing services out there these days (side note: if your therapist is suggesting face-time or skype, they are not doing things correctly). You may or may not have to get an account with the platform that they use, but regardless, you will set appointments with your therapist and at the time of your session you will show up most likely either by a link or signing into your account. There will be paperwork just like with traditional in person counseling, and this paperwork can be signed electronically. With luck, you will get a therapist that has a full platform set up that will enable you to sign within the platform.
The start to an online therapy session may feel a little awkward at first because your therapist may need to introduce herself, ask you some required start-of-session questions to ensure confidentiality and safety, as well as verify your identity. After this, therapy proceeds just like a traditional talk therapy session would proceed in person. After your session, your therapist will be able to arrange billing by internet and set your next follow up appointment.
An important note here is that just because your therapy session is online does not mean you are exempt from any preparation. Your therapist will likely review with you either in session or in her informed consent that it is important that you take steps to ensure that nobody is listening into your sessions, and that you have a strong internet connection and well functioning camera and microphone. You will most likely be charged for a session that doesn’t work out as a result of inadequate preparation. It is also important that you present yourself well, with decent lighting, and clothed appropriately- so if you aren’t wearing any pants, make sure your therapist doesn’t figure that out!