One of the many ripple effects of the coronavirus is that at this time when people need more emotional support than usual, mental health professionals have been advised to try and do our therapy sessions virtually, on video or phone, rather than live. This is causing some distress for clinicians and clients alike. Live sessions offer obvious advantages, such as the intangible energy in the room between two real humans, and the ambience of a professional setting. When switching to virtual, the technical, legal, and insurance details need to be addressed on a case by case basis. And there are some clients and some modalities of therapy that would simply not work virtually, and no one should be pressured to do so if they don’t want it. But in some cases, there can actually be some advantages to doing sessions remotely, once it has to be this way, as reported to me by my own real clients:
- The convenience of not needing to travel, find parking, or get a babysitter. Most clients need to budget time not only for the therapy slot itself, but the travel time, and kid coverage too. Some of my clients drive an hour or more each way. Depending on the ages of the kids and distance of the office, virtual lessons can simplify the scheduling.
- Reduced anxiety about being in the office. Some clients find the process of physically going to therapy (or anywhere outside the home) somewhat anxiety-inducing. Being able to talk to one’s therapist from the safety and comfort of their own homes adds a measure of security, and brings some of the reassurance that therapy offers into the space where they actually live and function, that they can still feel after the call ends.
- Sometimes the reduced vulnerability, and the added barrier of not physically being in the same room as the therapist, generates a sense of courage, where clients have expressed being willing to bring up or disclose feelings or events that they were inhibited to say live in session.
- Feeling less physically self-conscious. Some clients feel distracted by being hyper-aware of the way they look, how they are sitting, if they are sweating, wearing too much perfume, or other nuances of presentation. Being behind a screen, some of these details are less perceptible and allow the session to focus more on verbal content. Conversely, it also offers the client to observe his/her own facial expressions while talking, which is a different perspective.
- Both client and therapist can wear sweatpants or pajama pants and the other wouldn’t see.
Regardless of whether you do live, virtual, or cancel sessions- hope everyone stays healthy, sane, and safe!
Elisheva Liss, LMFT is a psychotherapist in private practice. Her book, Find Your Horizon of Healthy Thinking, is available on Amazon.com. She can be reached for sessions or speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org More of her content can be found at ElishevaLiss.com