Up until a couple of months ago, we were going about our daily lives, sometimes perhaps feeling a bit bored by the daily grind. We would wake up, go to work, do errands, attend appointments, meet friends and all the rest.
Then, suddenly, all this flipped upside down, did several somersaults and landed on its head. Everything we took as a given was no longer a given.
Schools were closed, many of us were asked to work from home and appointments and events were cancelled. In the beginning, it perhaps felt like life itself had been cancelled.
A few weeks on and we are adjusting. Humans are amazing in this way; our resilience allows us to adapt and so we have. This is not to say that all is fine or that we are not struggling − we most certainly are, and some more so than others.
One of the things we perhaps took for granted was the possibility of attending a therapy session in person. Psychotherapy was one of those things that had to shift very suddenly.
Most organisations quickly tried to adapt to working online, where at all possible, in order to adhere to the social distancing recommendations. Initially, I think it is safe to say, this was met with some resistance, both by therapists, who were unused to working online, and by clients, who had a number of very valid reasons for not wanting to continue their therapeutic journey through a computer screen.
This article will briefly explore some of these reasons and perhaps attempt to address clients’ main concerns during this shift to online services.
‘It’s just too strange, it’s not personal enough’
This was the primary concern for most people, clients and professionals alike.
Something which is unfamiliar tends to feel uncomfortable, mostly just because it is new. The lack of physical presence does make a difference, there is no denying this. On the other hand, different is not necessarily bad, only different.
Often, I have found that if people have some experience in therapy and then need to shift to working online, it takes a little bit of time, perhaps a couple of sessions, to start feeling comfortable. On the other hand, when people’s first experience of therapy is online, it seems that within the first session, many feel more comfortable than they would have anticipated.
‘I’m not very good with technology’
This is a big one, and again I would say it is one faced by many therapists and clients alike.
Finding a space that is quiet and private enough for your session can be a challenge
Let’s face it, many of us are not tech wizards, so most of us are struggling to figure out all the different software and applications, etc. This is OK, we are figuring it out together, and some way or another we will find a way to make it work. If this is your primary concern, speak to your therapist and they will do their best to guide you through it.
‘I don’t have any privacy’
This is a common concern. Most of us are sharing a home with others, who are also not leaving the house, and many of us do not live in enormous homes, so finding a space that is quiet and private enough for your session can be a challenge.
Some people have found they are able and comfortable to have a session in their car if the internet connection is strong enough. Others have found that using headphones can help in drowning out noise from the rest of the household. Others have asked the people they live with to wear noise-cancelling headphones for the duration of their session.
‘My problem isn’t big enough’
Many people tend to feel like this in general regarding attending therapy, but it seems to have become more noticeable now. Many seem to think that they must be breaking down to seek therapy.
Ideally, therapy is there to support people to avoid getting to that point, and I would say that during this particular time we are living − when many of us are struggling to come to terms with the sudden changes in our lives − therapy can help us to tap into that resilience I mentioned earlier. In short, people’s issues are never too small to seek help for.
As we are slowly getting more used to living our lives online, we are starting to notice that not only is online therapy helpful but that it may even offer some advantages.
Firstly, there is the obvious convenience as we are not using precious time to travel to and from our session. Secondly, when people are really struggling, it can be easier and less intimidating to seek out therapy remotely. Lastly, clients are able to, if they wish, share a bit more of their life through introducing us to their home and pets. This sometimes allows a client to feel slightly more at ease as they are in their own environment which is where they feel safe.
The above is what we have experienced in the past few weeks. I would like to reiterate that though online therapy is most certainly a different experience, it does not mean it has to be a bad one. That being said, online therapy is not going to be for everyone.
If you are struggling or not sure whether you would like to try online therapy or not, get in touch and reach out to professionals. They will be able to address your specific concerns and together you can find the best way forward.
Katie Delicata, a psychotherapist, wrote this article on behalf of the Richmond Foundation.
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