5 Myths of Online Therapy

 

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In an increasingly digital world it is hard to find a commodity that isn’t accessible online. If I run out of dog food, Amazon can have it to my door in two days (thank you Prime). If I’m hungry I can use GrubHub. If I owe a friend for the dinner bill, I use Venmo. All of these things have made my life more convenient, and come with little to no downside. It got me thinking: in a world where time is of the essence, and most things are available at my fingertips, why not create a business that offers therapy in a similar way?

Online therapy functions in the exact same way a traditional therapy session would, the only difference is, rather than having to drive to my office, you click a meeting link and are joined to the session instantaneously. No longer are you having to fight stressful traffic to get in your self-care, you can literally find a quiet space and start. What I’ve noticed as I continue to grow this model, is that while those who try and do online sessions with me love it, there are still a lot of misconceptions about what it is and how it works. I want to dispel those myths and help you see that not only is online therapy essentially the same, but the perks of this new model might make you wonder why you didn’t try it sooner.

So here are the most common myths about online therapy:

  1. It’s not legitimate: I’m going to be honest: when I first started hearing about online therapy, I had this thought too. Right now if you search online therapy you are going to see a lot of businesses that offer things like constant email and texting contact with your therapist. They use untested methods of contact to promote unrealistic expectations of what their services can do. THIS IS NOT WHAT I DO! What I am talking about is exactly the same as therapy in an office, only through a screen. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of California, and I am doing this because I believe in the benefits of it and the accessibility. I use the same treatment style and methods I would as if we were in the same space. Safe and legitimate psychotherapy is available, just make sure you do your due diligence in finding a therapist.
  2. It feels impersonal: This is probably the biggest concern and also the biggest misconception. Once the session starts, and we begin our work, the screen seems to melt away. As a therapist, I am giving you exactly what you would get from me if we were in a room together, and I make every effort on my end to convey that to you during our time together. I recommend taking some time upfront in order to facilitate your own therapeutic environment: Make sure you are in a quiet and private space, make sure you don’t have anything else scheduled for the hour, and set your devices to “Do Not Disturb.” These things help ensure that you are having the same experience you would in a therapist’s office.
  3. I won’t actually accomplish anything: As with any type of therapy, the answer here is that you will take out what you put in. If you are coming to therapy because of your motivation to change, and your hope for something different, then whether the sessions are online or in person, you are going to get the same result. Choosing to be accountable to yourself will go a long way.
  4. The technology is unsafe: I host my sessions through Zoom, which uses encrypted services to offer HIPPA compliance. This means that every possible effort is being taking to make sure that your protected health information (name, date of birth, etc.) cannot be accessed or leaked, in the same way your records would be safe at a doctor’s office. Be sure to ask your therapist whether the video sessions are HIPPA compliant (Skype is not, doxyme is). As with any online contact, there are limits, but every possible precaution is taking to ensure safety in this area.
  5. My therapist won’t be able to read me as well: While there are limits to what can be seen through a screen, for the most part, I am getting a full picture when I see your face. Most of our emotion is shown in our facial expression, and posture can be noted without a full body image. If this continues to be a concern, the camera can be adjusted so that more of the body is shown, but I personally haven’t encountered this as being an issue.

Concerns aside, there are so many upsides to working with a therapist online! I cannot overstate the convenience. In California especially, traffic is an increasing problem, and a one-hour session can easily turn into 2-3 hours of your day if you are having to travel. The time and the added stress can often be counterproductive to the great work we do, and eliminating that is so helpful. Online sessions are especially great for people who own their own businesses or travel for work. Your progress won’t be interrupted by your own responsibilities, as you’re able to set aside a reasonable amount of time to prioritize self-care. During cold and flu season you don’t have to risk exposure to the germs of a waiting room, and immunocompromised clients don’t have to worry about added risk. Parents of young children can benefit as well, as sessions can happen during naptime or while kids are occupied with a game or movie.

If you’re curious about getting started, reach out and schedule a consultation. You can get a feel of whether or not it’s a good fit for you, and if it is you can get started on your progress right away. Visit my website to get started.

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New Year

            If, like me, you have spent any amount of time online within the past two weeks, you have undoubtedly come across Top 10 lists and resolutions, and pros and cons for the new year. I have never been very big a new year’s resolutions for a few reasons. First, I do not like to start something I won’t finish. Generally by the time I remember I (cringe to type) “should” come up with some type of goal, I don’t have much time to come up with something clever or creative that will truly benefit my life. Secondly, I live my life with goals. It doesn’t take a date on the calendar to remind me that life is lived in perpetual motion, so I am often addressing the stagnant areas of my life and choosing a way to reset the momentum. Lastly, it feels de-motivating in a way, to be limited to a resolution on the new year. If I decide that I want to learn a new language in October, but I know that might make a good resolution, I am more likely to put it off until January 1. By the time January arrives, I don’t feel the pressing urge I had in the moment to learn that language, and suddenly it becomes something that never happens.

            So rather than waiting for my fresh start tomorrow, I decided to write this short post today. I don’t want to be negative to those for whom resolutions work. I just want the pressure of “major life change” to dissipate slightly. I think people are more motivated to complete something they want to do rather than something they have to do. If now feels like the right time for it, more power to you, but I encourage reflection before action. Chart your trajectory and determine if the path looks good. That is where more time is spent.

            And if you were curious, I do not have a “resolution” per se, but I do have goals that I am currently working on. The first is my self-care. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and making more time for fitness has made a marked change in my approach to work, so it will be something I continue into the new year. And second is this blog. It was an idea for so much longer than it has been a reality, and I plan to reverse that. I have found a great source of joy in utilizing this medium, and through constructive feedback and support, I plan to continue with weekly postings for as long as possible.

            So thank you for 2013, and see you in the new year.