Taking my private practice online
The world is experiencing a pandemic of Coronavirus, or Covid-19 flu. Due to the way it’s transmitted, people are being advised to severely limit in-person contact with others, and to take great care around hygiene. As everywhere, the situation in London is very much ongoing – and changing rapidly.
This post is to announce that, due to the current situation with Coronavirus, I am now seeing my clients entirely online. This will remain in place until things change again. This means I will be working either by video/audio link using Zoom (or another similar service as backup), or by phone. My colleagues are doing the same, or working towards it.
The benefits of online therapy
I would like to say more about this as not everyone feels comfortable with the idea of working with a counsellor or psychotherapist remotely. I have been working online and by phone for a number of years, and I would like to reassure anyone who is looking for therapy at the moment but has never done it online before.
There are significant advantages to working online:
- We do not need to be in the same location to work together. Online access has created a revolution in therapeutic communication and relationships.
- We have greater choice of working times, as I am not tied to the in-person hours I have at my office.
- It provides access if you are unable to leave your home for any reason, or if you find in-person work very difficult.
- Very importantly, we can continue to work during unusual periods like this when meeting in person is not possible.
There are also challenges:
- Finding a private space to have therapy. This is important to reflect on, if your home or workplace are not right for this.
- Feeling comfortable using a medium that you may not have used before, or which you have previously mainly used for social or sexual contact.
- The reliability and safety of the technology.
If you’ve never had counselling online before, I have tried to answer some of the queries you may have:
Doesn’t it feel weird doing therapy while looking at each other on a screen?
I think we all felt weird the first time we did any kind of video call, even with someone we know well in real life. The first time you have a session on video as a client, it’s okay to take some time to feel into it, make sure you are sitting in a comfortable position and, if you need to, feed back to your therapist about what’s going on for you.
I’m worried it might feel distancing.
It may do at first, and it’s important to honour whatever you’re feeling at the time. However, humans are highly adaptive, and it’s likely that, it will gradually start to normalise.
Don’t you lose something by not being in the same room?
You lose some body language for sure. But your senses recalibrate.
Isn’t it strange to do therapy by phone?
My experience is that you can do very effective therapy by phone. With only hearing to guide us, our senses recalibrate further and our focus increases.
Do I have to install anything on my computer/phone?
You may well need to download an app and/or sign into a website. I am happy to guide you through this.
What if something goes wrong and the tech doesn’t work on the day?
This happens occasionally. Wi-fi can go down. Services may be busier as more people take their lives online. However, I have several apps on my laptop as backup, andwe can use our phones. Depending on the access issues, we can look at each other on video while speaking on the phone, or even typing on messenger. (For the latter, a discussion on confidentiality is necessary.) If everything goes down completely, we can reschedule.
What about confidentiality?
In terms of what we say to each other, my approach to confidentiality is the same as when we are working in a room together. As for protection when working online, as soon as electronic media are being used for communication, there is a slightly greater risk. This is unavoidable. It’s about balancing the possible risks with your needs at the time. Some VOIP apps are seen to be more secure than others, and it is my responsibility as the therapist to check up on this.
When reflecting on whether I and a new client are a good fit, I take a number of things into account – and working online is not going to be the right thing for everyone. I’m also aware that for some people, the act of leaving your home, travelling to your therapist’s consulting room, and coming back again, is part of the process, and it feels odd not to have this.
While these tools – computers, phones, and the internet – are not perfect (because humans made them) they are enormously useful, especially at times like this when there are very few other options.
While we all try to adapt to this rapidly changing situation, therapy may not be uppermost on your mind. However, if you would like to start therapy and are interested in working with me online, on video or by phone, please get in touch.