Is Online Therapy Right For You?
I am a licensed professional counselor and certified sex therapist with an office located in Princeton, NJ. I am also a certified telehealth provider and offer online therapy to anyone located in Indiana, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania (the states in which I currently hold a professional license), and Internationally.
I offer both in-person and online services, or a mixture of both based on your individual needs.
Below, I am using several terms interchangeably (e-therapy, distance counseling, telehealth, etc.) all of which mean online therapy.
My Journey to Online Psychotherapy
When I first started offering online psychotherapy to clients, it was purely out of necessity. One of my clients transitioned into college and was attending a school far away from home. We had built a very nice rapport over the previous 6 months we had been working together, and neither of us wanted to end, especially because she was making good progress. Providing her with services online felt like the right thing to do for my client and I was willing/able to give it a try.
This was nearly 8 years ago and, at the times, I admit that I was skeptical about the effectiveness of online therapy and the ability to connect with clients in the same way we do in person. However, I was pleasantly surprised by our ability to connect. I was won over by the technological advances and the many advantages online therapy provides.
I’ve had many clients move over the years I have been in practice and I have had to move as well. These moves have often come before clients were ready to graduate from therapy. Moving used to create an arbitrary end to therapy. Starting over with a new therapist can be difficult, and even more so when it feels forced, so many clients simply wouldn’t do it, when they really needed to. Now, online psychotherapy makes the therapist portable.
Over the last eight years, I have found online therapy to be powerful and have had a very positive experience. I’ve watched the online psychotherapy world take off, growing so quickly that the rules and regulations have scrambled to catch up. Training and research have also needed to catch up to the technology. We now know that research shows teletherapy to be just as effective as face-to-face therapy. I have also taken telehealth training to be competent, effective and more knowledgeable about the many regulations put in place over the recent years.
Benefits of Online Therapy
Online Counseling can provide a sense of safety and security because you can stay in the comfort of your own home, car, office, or wherever you feel most secure and comfortable. The screen can also provide just enough distance to help you feel comfortable sharing delicate and deeply personal information. This advantage can really help us go deeper in our work in a shorter amount of time than in-person counseling, potentially saving you time and money.
Teletherapy is comfortable, familiar, and convenient for people of all ages. Many young people have grown up using screens for their entire lives so it may feel familiar and more comfortable than meeting in-person. Middle-aged and older adults use technology for business and/or personal use and also find teletherapy quite familiar and convenient.
Telehealth Therapy can often feel more protected and confidential than in-person therapy. There is slight increase in anonymity, possibly making it easier to share personal information. There are no worries about running into someone you might know in the waiting room or in the parking lot. There also isn’t a concern for anyone overhearing your session from neighboring offices or a waiting room. Sharing difficult and deeply personal information may feel easier in the comfort of your own secure space as well.
Distance Counseling helps expand your search radius and gives you more options for finding a therapist with a specific specialization and/or a therapist who is the best fit for your personal needs in therapy. It may be difficult to find someone locally with a certain expertise (such as sex therapy) or a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and confident. Opening up your search to multiple states/areas may help you find the best match for you. Remember that good therapy is all about fit.
Telecounseling can save you time and money because it eliminates the commute. There is no need for transportation, gas, or parking expenses and hassles.
Online therapy protects clients from exposure to germs and eliminates the transmission of illnesses. This can be incredibly useful for those with compromised immune systems. I have used technology for several clients in cancer treatments in order to help provide uninterrupted support and care when they were too exhausted to attend in-person. E-therapy helps those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to make it into the office.
E-counseling reduces missed sessions due to inclement weather and keeps you safer because there is no need to try and travel when the weather is not cooperating. This can be useful for those who may typically attend sessions in-person, but occasionally aren’t able to make it in due to weather conditions.
Challenges of Online Therapy
As you can see, there are many benefits to telehealth counseling. I’m certain there are even more benefits than I have listed. However, there are also a few challenges to online therapy.
Online technology can be an issue with a slow or poor connection. Making sure you have a fast internet connection is important. Sometimes, there are also issues with online platforms, servers, etc. that are out of our control. If this occurs, we can make accommodations.
I encourage you to create a ritual around each and every session because this can make a big difference for creating a structure that is useful and helpful. Lighting a candle before each session or letting it burn throughout, then blowing it out while letting the session go in your mind can provide a firm beginning and end to each meeting. Or, you could brew a nice cup of tea prior to starting the session and the ritual of making the tea can help provide a safe place-type setting.
Privacy is a key issue for making telecounseling successful. Making sure you have enough privacy from other family members, children, co-workers, and have proper childcare during session times is key.
Distance counseling is not the right tool for everyone in every circumstance. Some of you may be best helped by meeting with a therapist in person rather than online, and this is determined on a case by case basis.
Currently I am providing online psychotherapy to residents of Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Internationally. If you are interested in pursuing online therapy, please contact me to set up a free initial consultation (10-15 minutes). I usually say it will take several sessions for us to know if we’re a good fit for one another, meaning you feel comfortable and are able to be open with me, and that I feel I am going to be helpful for you. The first session is not a commitment to therapy. You can choose to proceed or not. It is an opportunity to learn more about yourself, how I work, how we might work together, and about the process.