Talking Therapies Online? Really?


Holding coaching, counselling and therapy sessions online is something many of us have been forced to face in 2020 - the year of Coronavirus.


If you had asked me whether I'd have thought it was a good idea back in February 2020, I'm sure I'd have said 'absolutely not - face to face is best!'


But Zoom has become my friend this year. I have learned that it can work for clients and therapists alike.


One of my clients had really only wanted to meet face to face, and put off what we now know to be the inevitible. We had a first session on the telephone - which was actually quite free flowing and comfortable. There was something about not seeing each other that perhaps made our first meeting quite comfortable.


In session two, we met on Zoom. It was clear we were both self conscious. Where should we look at the screen? It was uncomfortable for us both - me perhaps more because I could see how uncomfortable my client was. At the end of the hour, the client said that he had felt very uneasy at the start but by the end, he had forgotten that we were using camera and screen. From our third session, it had become second nature. 4 months on, we don't even think about it.


I would argue that the relationship you make is key to the outcomes of counselling, coaching and therapy. This is echoed by prominent Transactional Analysis writers such as Richard Erskine, amongst many others.


I, and I am sure many others, have proved this year that you can make such relationships using the likes of Zoom.


In my view the key to that, for both therapist and client is a willingness to drop the preconceived obstacles in your minds and immerse yourself in a willingness to make it work.


Here are a few other tips and considerations that I have found helpful :

  1. Make sure you undertake online sessions somewhere private, where you can't be overheard and won't be interrupted.

  2. Undertake the sessions somewhere comfortable for you. Grab a cup of tea or coffee and settle yourself down. Get yourself grounded and comfortable in the environment before starting.

  3. Use a platform you are both comfortable with. Zoom is good because if you put it on a big laptop screen you can see each other better. What's app and FaceTime on a phone screen are hard to focus on, and often get interrupted by incoming phone calls or text messages.

  4. Be aware, whilst you may be comfortable with the technology, the other person may not be. How you can you make this easier for each other?

  5. Have some rules about what happens if the internet freezes, or the connection drops you out completely. A backup plan is useful.

  6. Watch out for things in the room that might be inappropriate or distracting, or that might cause issues for the other party. I have personally found my cats to be very distracting / therapeutic (*delete as necessary)

  7. Be open about any difficulties the method of therapy is causing either of you. Bring it into the room. Only by speaking about it can you overcome these issues. Don't be afraid to give each other feedback.

  8. Take time out after your session. Online methods can be more tiring than sessions in person. Both parties should be able to have some down time afterwards to unwind and reflect. Remember that the transition between 'the therapy room' and your home may be more challenging because it's your home. The two don't normally mix!

As we move out of the pandemic, my thoughts turn to how this time will change the nature of talking therapies. Will we go back to 100% face to face meetings? I don't think so. I think this time will allow us to mix and match as feels appropriate. These decisions will, in future, become a joint contract made between client and therapist.


And with that in mind, I offer initial consultations only online or on the telephone. This gives us both the chance to discuss what is most appropriate. If you would like to take advantage of this, drop me an email, or book a consultation online.


Chris Colcomb

20/12/2020


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