Online Mental Health Services
Online therapy refers to online mental health services as they’re delivered remotely using telecommunication technologies like video conferencing, phone calls, email, and messaging. The role of the therapist is largely the same as in-person therapy, but requires some additional considerations:
Building Rapport via Technology
It is important for the online therapist to still build rapport and trust with clients, even though they are not in the same physical space. Additional effort may be needed at the beginning of therapy to make a connection personally and professionally before focusing on the client’s concerns. The therapist can share details about themselves, experience, credentials, and approach to therapy to help establish credibility.
Providing a Safe Digital Space
When meeting clients online, the therapist must create a safe virtual space using measures like privacy controls, encrypted messaging, and cloud storage security. Clients must feel comfortable sharing sensitive information and emotions knowing the online space is secure and confidential. The therapist communicates exactly how sessions and information are protected and mitigates any concerns clients may have about online therapy.
Pacing and Tailoring Treatment
Given that clients participate in therapy from their unique environments, the pacing and approach must be tailored to each individual. Some clients may prefer a slower, longer-form approach while others desire shorter, more frequent interactions. The therapist assesses client needs and preferences to determine an optimal schedule and content for their virtual sessions.
Handling Technology Issues
No matter how advanced the equipment and internet connections, technology issues remain possibilities with online therapy. Therapists must prepare for potential glitches, lags, microphone issues, and internet outages. They have a backup plan in place, communicate any technology problems quickly, and do not take technology completely for granted. If needed, they can switch to phone calls or reschedule a session.
Adapting to Limitations and Benefits
While online therapy presents some challenges, it also offers benefits such as increased accessibility, convenience, and flexibility. Therapists learn to adapt sessions to make the most of technological capabilities and understand limitations. They incorporate features like video clips, online resources, messaging, and mobile apps as clinically appropriate and helpful to each client.
In summary, the role of the online therapist in online mental health services includes building rapport via technology, providing a safe digital space, individualizing pacing and treatment, handling technology issues, and adapting to both limitations and advantages of the online modality. With patience, skill, and the right mindset, therapists can facilitate effective therapy remotely using technology.