I’ve hesitated to wade into this subject for some time, but I continue to be asked about it….so here are some thoughts…..
First, it’s a reality. Dozens and dozens of therapists provide it….and consequently, large numbers of individuals are opting for this direction. Hopefully, that means that it’s helping people. What I DO know is that connecting (and talking, and hearing ourselves “think out loud,” and getting feedback), is one of the secrets of good connecting and gradual healing. Does that include the HOW it’s done?
First some recollections of the positives in almost ANY form of paying attention to what we feel. I read a research report — in the 70’s — that set up the following experiment. A random group of college students were assigned to go to a college counselor to discuss problems. A second random group was given a tape recorder and instructed to talk into the recorder, at a specific time each week, about whatever problems they wanted to discuss. A comparison of the two groups indicated that those talking “to a tape recorder” and those talking to a counselor, were not significantly different in successful outcome. It was a small study …. but that does not take away from the reality that TALKING is useful. I have been known to tell clients that a big part of therapy is simply HEARING YOURSELF TALK OUT LOUD about what’s going on. Granted there’s a lot more to it or I would not have a profession!
The plus sides of on line work involves less expense, less travel time, more convenient opportunities to schedule a session, AND it’s a connection that some people would otherwise not have. Consequently, I can’t genuinely give the on line work a negative review.
I can, however, express the plus side of sitting down face to face. In that face to face setting you develop a relationship that has ALL ingredients of relating and the high potential of success for healing. You see one another clearly. All the facial expressions, the body language, the significant awareness of the client’s breathing, the voice tone, the changes in all of the above — the opportunity to reach out and touch one another in even a slight gesture of comfort or encouragement — and the flow of content that goes uninterrupted….. I’ve had many clients tell me that having my full attention for 50 minutes, truly being heard, and seen, getting feedback – is a unique experience.
So my major question: how is the relationship-building impacted in on-line work? I truly don’t know. I am hopeful it’s not a negative because the practice is growing so rapidly. And I am hopeful the research both pro and con will follow. My biggest concern is technology in general. So many devices encourage less and less face to face, voice to voice contact. And I worry about the impact on the quality of any relationships. When a family sitting down to dinner includes some of the kids texting the people RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM, I’m concerned. So, in my assessment, that concern leaks over into the on-line therapy issue. I won’t wade in any deeper until the research starts to flow. And I will cross my fingers that I can relax because this newer venture does work.
My biggest recommendation: If you have the resources and the time and a reliable referral, for now at least, opt for sitting down in someone’s office for therapy.