Connecting in a disconnected world. How Online therapy works.
By Gerda Kriel – Clinical Psychologist (MA. Psych)
2020 has taught us to innovate. It propelled the world into a new way of working and doing things, that might otherwise have taken years to become accustomed to. It has certainly changed the landscape of psychotherapy. It is now more important than ever, to understand the art of connecting in a disconnected world.
If you have ever considered online psychotherapy, this article explains just how online therapy works, and it might prepare you for what to expect.
Connecting in a disconnected world. How online therapy works:
- Choosing your therapist
First off you will need to choose a therapist that resonates with you. Most therapists have websites, and from this you should be able to book an appointment or reach out to a therapist to arrange an appointment. Once your appointment is booked, your therapist will inform you of a secure online platform with end-to-end encryption, which will be used to connect.
- The first session
At the arranged time, you and your therapist will then connect to the same platform, and your session will begin. Just as in face-to-face therapy, the first two sessions will be dedicated to doing an assessment of your mental state and needs. During this time you and your therapist will work together to determine what the reasons are that you are seeking therapy. Towards the end of the second session you and your therapist will discuss the road ahead.
- Keeping it up
Just as with regular therapy, you will need to schedule regular appointments with your therapist to see improvement. Weekly or biweekly appointments at a regular time are the best way to make sure that you and your therapist connect and are able to make gains on your therapeutic path.
When should I consider online therapy?
Anyone can benefit from online therapy, but we recommend meeting face-to-face if logistics allow it. There is a different dynamic and connection in person compared to online therapy.
However, online therapy has the advantage that you could be in any place, at any time to connect with your therapist. This makes it an ideal option to pursue if you travel often for work, or if you live in a remote area where you do not have access to therapists nearby. You might even meet your therapist in person when you are nearby and revert to online therapy when you travel.
Online therapy is also useful during periods of lockdown, such as is the case during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Tips for online therapy:
Online therapy is not a perfect solution, but here are some tips to make the process safer and easier for you.
- To make therapy sustainable, it is important that you and your therapist meet regularly, choosing the same day and time seems to work best for most people.
- Make sure that you are on a secure internet connection, and not dependable on a cellular connection. The stability of your internet connection greatly improves you experience of online therapy.
- Find a space where you can be alone and private, and where you can have at least an hour uninterrupted from friends and family.
- Take a moment to disconnect from your session mentally after it ends. Staying in the seat for a moment, mentally ending the session and “leaving” the metaphorical room, so you can release yourself from the session, and release yourself from the discussion.
Ethical guidelines about online therapy
In 2020, with the surge of online therapy happening, the HPCSA released a guide of ethical guidelines to support practitioners in practising ethical online therapy. These guidelines can be found on the HPCSA website, under ethical guidelines, in booklet 10, or at the following link: https://www.sada.co.za/media/documents/HPCSA_Booklet_10_Telemedicine.pdf
In conclusion, ethical online therapy can be extremely useful, and is a definite viable option for many, who might otherwise be denied therapy, or who might not have therapists nearby. It is the responsibility of the therapist to ensure your safety and to safeguard your information. However, you can also make sure that your therapist is practising ethically, and also making certain that the therapeutic space is one in which you feel comfortable and safe in.
During these unprecedented times, it is paramount that mental health get the treatment it deserves, you merely have to decide whether you prefer to connect online, or in real life.