It has been an interesting and unexpected process for me to shift from exclusively embodied therapy into the ‘virtual’ medium. I was skeptical of online counseling. As someone who places huge importance on the quality of the therapeutic relationship as a predictor of successful outcomes in therapy, and the necessity of shared physical presence to read and track the subtle energetic interplay between therapist and client I underestimated the potential of online therapy. So it was not a planned work strategy. It began by chance.
Some previous clients got back in touch when they needed extra support. As I’m no longer in Bristol or, indeed, London and they didn’t want to go through the process of finding and establishing rapport with a new therapist I cautiously offered them cyber sessions over video link. To my surprise the majority seemed to significantly benefit from the experience. They gave positive feedback and chose to continue working in this format. Clinically they appeared to be receiving similar benefits to those they had displayed in conventional therapy.
Initially I was astonished to find that really meaningful work could still be achieved online with previous clients with whom I already had a working relationship. But could this stretch to people with whom there was no previous connection? Would it be possible, having never sat across the room from someone, never shaken them by the hand, never had the reference of their physical presence, to form a tenable bond that could tether us effectively enough to withstand the challenges of therapy?
I am finding that there are inevitable drawbacks. Sometimes I miss the palpable immediacy of being in the same room together. Visual cues from seeing the whole human body in front of you are lost. Sometimes I want to give a client some particular handouts or together look over therapeutic assignments they’ve done.
But I’m finding that the lost benefits of face to face work can be balanced with added benefits from new elements. The saving of time, resources and energy that are spent in travelling both for the client and therapist allow for those resources to be channeled elsewhere. For the client being in one’s own home – not having to battle one’s way home when feeling raw and emotional – can be a huge attraction. For those who struggle to reveal aspects of themselves face to face the perceived anonymity of meeting via screen can help ease the fear of self-disclosure.
I take care to explain the pros and cons of working in this medium to potential clients and refer them to therapists in their location if it’s decided that they would benefit more from the tangible connection. In assessment the nature of their issues also determines whether it would feel appropriate to do online work versus the more grounded option. If on reflection and discussion there are no significant perceived drawbacks we give it a try. Thus far it’s been a mutually rewarding experience and I’ll continue to offer online therapy moving forwards.