Remote Therapy – From Marin, Costa Rica or Virtually Anywhere
With SKYPE and other video conferencing technology, clients can now do therapy without leaving their OWN couch. To many people this at first seems strange. And there are certainly advantages to coming into our office for in-person therapy.
However, remote therapy by video conferencing also has many advantages, most of which we ourselves were unaware of until we began Skyping with some clients by necessity.
My first Skype session was with a long-time client who moved to Berlin.
She didn’t want to begin therapy with someone else, so we began using Skype, without any discernable diminishment in the effectiveness of the therapy.
I’ve also worked with couples who themselves were in different parts of the world from each other – yet wanted marital help.
In one case, a lesbian couple in Brooklyn contacted me. Their first reaction to learning that my practice had shifted from NY to the Bay area was to say “no thank you.”
But then they realized one great advantage to Skype: after working 12-hour shifts as nurses and coming home to an infant they could STAY home, and avoid the time, trouble and cost of going out one evening a week to see a therapist. The work with them proceeded wonderfully. Though we’ve never met in person, we have a strong, therapeutic relationship.
In another successful case, an officer in Iraq contacted me because he’d had an affair, felt terribly guilty, told his wife, and was finding the marital heat worse than the war-like conditions overseas.
Another, totally unpredicted, advantage to video is that certain clients who are on the shy side feel much SAFER talking from their own home, their own space. Several have remarked – and I agree – that the progress was much faster as a result of being able to be more vulnerable and honest by having that little extra space between themselves and the therapist.
It allowed them to develope a more trusting relationship with me. And at the same time, even though there is the “video” distance, as we look into the screen our faces are actually much closer than they would be in a room. And if you’re thinking that perhaps the client’s greater trust might only work for them in other “internet” relationships, both these clients have had significiant external changes. One is now in her first committed relationship with a partner, and the other has succeeded professionally beyond anything he is used to.
Another advantage is that a client in an area without highly experienced therapists can work with one who is at the top of his or her field. And clients who travel can “take their therapist” with them. Travel or a busy schedule doesn’t have to interfere with therapy appointment.
The New York Times ran an article on 9/24/11 where this was written:
“Ms. Weinblatt, a 30-year-old high school teacher in Oregon, used to be in treatment the conventional way — with face-to-face office appointments.
Now, with her new doctor, she said: “I can have a Skype therapy session with my morning coffee or before a night on the town with the girls. I can take a break from shopping for a session. I took my doctor with me through three states this summer!”
“And”, she added, “I even e-mailed him that I was panicked about a first date, and he wrote back and said we could do a 20-minute mini-session.”
Today Skype, and encrypted digital software through third-party sites like CaliforniaLiveVisit.com, have made online private practice accessible for a broader swath of patients, including those who shun office treatment or who simply like the convenience of therapy on the fly.
“In three years, this will take off like a rocket,” said Eric A. Harris, a lawyer and psychologist who consults with the American Psychological Association Insurance Trust. “Everyone will have real-time audiovisual availability.
There will be a group of true believers who will think that being in a room with a client is special and you can’t replicate that by remote involvement. But a lot of people, especially younger clinicians, will feel there is no basis for thinking this. Still, appropriate professional standards will have to be followed.”
The pragmatic benefits are obvious. “No parking necessary!” touts one online therapist. Some therapists charge less for sessions since they, too, can do it from home, saving on gas and office rent. Blizzards, broken legs and business trips no longer cancel appointments. The anxiety of shrink-less August could be, dare one say … curable?
Ms. Weinblatt came to the approach through geographical necessity. When her therapist moved, she was apprehensive about transferring to the other psychologist in her small town, who would certainly know her prominent ex-boyfriend. So her therapist referred her to another doctor, whose practice was a day’s drive away. But he was willing to use Skype with long-distance patients. She was game. Now she prefers these sessions to the old-fashioned kind.
But does knowing that your therapist is just a phone tap or mouse click away create a 21st-century version of shrink-neediness?
“There’s that comfort of carrying your doctor around with you like a security blanket,” Ms. Weinblatt acknowledged. “But,” she added, “because he’s more accessible, I feel like I need him less.
Are you interested in remote therapy? Give me a call, or fill out this short form right now…