How to mitigate the disadvantages of online therapy

Over the past two years online therapy has quickly grown in prominence from an option a small minority would have chosen to the norm, and it’s likely a large percentage of therapy will continue to be provided remotely even after the pandemic ceases to be a threat.


It’s reassuring then to know that according to meta-analysis “Clinically, therapy is no less efficacious when delivered via videoconferencing than in-person” [1] However, many clients are still reluctant to use online therapy which is problematic because sometimes it’ll be the only sort of therapy they can access. Therefore, it’s important to learn the common disadvantages of online therapy and how to mitigate them.

1. Feeling it is less personal than face-to-face


This can be helped by knowing how to interact with the camera, looking into it to simulate eye contact instead of looking at the screen and being expressive just as if you were talking face to face. A high-quality camera is also a must, and the therapist should learn the differences between the different platforms used to host video calls so difficulties operating them are not experienced in the session.


2. Internet connection problems


It’s imperative that if a therapist does not have a reliable internet connection at home that they obtain one or find a space where they do, as calls cutting out especially while the client is expressing themselves will harm sessions and disrupt scheduling of the later sessions in the day as well.


3. The client not feeling they have a “safe space”


Some clients do not feel they can fully open up to a therapist while at home possibly because of strained relationships in the house and worrying about things they are saying being heard. This is one of the toughest problems to deal with as there are no easy solutions to it if the client is young or cannot get away from these strained relationships, but one option is instructing the family that the sessions need to be confidential to work and to let the client have the session in their own room with the door closed. Another idea is to schedule sessions for days and times where the client is alone in the house.


Finally, for clients who are still apprehensive about online therapy you could offer them a free trial session to assuage their fears of wasting money, and you should remind them that the online format does offer many advantages such as being timesaving because the client does not have to travel, or the ease of screensharing notes and resources.


References

1. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpp.2594