When Covid-19 started spreading, I didn’t instantly move away from working with people directly in the room. Up until that point I had only provided limited online sessions, usually when people moved away from the area or travelled for work. I was slightly apprehensive about that as an option. However, as things continued and lockdown measures were looming, I decided to only offer online sessions, and of course it got to a point where this was all we were able to do.
As lockdown measures have eased there has been lots of discussion (and concern) amongst Clinical Psychologists regarding at what point is it ‘safe’ to return to working with people in the same room again. As I write this, in early July, I do not feel that it is quite time yet, which is to do with a variety of factors. One factor that is informing this decision is that I am actually (surprisingly) finding online working ok. In fact more than ok. There are of course some disadvantages, and it has taken some getting used to. However, in terms of the feedback from my clients and the reflections I have made myself, I feel that online working is a very viable option.
Over this lockdown period, I have completed work with clients who I have solely worked online with and therefore will never meet in person. If online working weren’t an option, these clients, instead of having completed a course of therapy, would still be waiting. I reflected today on how online working doesn’t necessarily have to impact negatively on the therapeutic relationship, as perhaps I had previously anticipated that it would. The therapeutic relationship is of utmost importance to me: it is essential that people are able to foster a good therapeutic relationship with their therapist, and this has been proved to be essential in determining whether work is effective. I have learnt that it has been possible to foster some really strong therapeutic relationships with clients through online working.
In some instances, online therapy might actually be easier for some people, as clients may feel more comfortable and relaxed in their own surroundings rather than in a clinic space. This may mean that people feel more able to open up and allow themselves to be more vulnerable than they previously might have done. It may even be about practical factors; people may find it easier to engage in therapy when there are competing demands on time as it can take just an hour out of the day when no travel time is required.
Of course, online options are not going to suit everyone. For some people accessing therapy via an online platform will not be comfortable or even possible. However, I am keen that once I am again in a position to offer ‘in room’ therapy again, that I will continue to offer online sessions to those who might want it, or indeed a combination of the both. For anyone who is considering therapy, but unsure whether they feel online therapy is for them, I would encourage them to get in touch. I offer a free 15 minute consultation, which can be conducted online in order to get a ‘feel’ for how online therapy might work.
Dr Emma Stevens, HCPC Registered, is an experienced Clinical Psychologist. She has an integrative approach drawing on Cognitive Behavioural, Systemic and Psychodynamic models, as well as Attachment Theory. Emma sees individuals primarily for sort-term work. Emma is available at our Lewes Practice.
Further reading by Dr Emma Stevens