I began offering mental health therapy through telehealth means several months ago. Compared to the traditional office setting, it's been an interesting journey!
We know there are drawbacks to any telehealth setting. We lose many forms of communication when we're not seeing each other in person, and that is especially important in any setting relevant to our physical and mental health. Mental health counselors frequently pay attention to posture, tone of voice, facial expressions, and other "tells" as a way to help understand clients better. While we can see much of that in video sessions, it's not as easy to read the whole person. In addition to that, having that "energy" between two people in an in-person session can be a powerful thing.
However, telehealth has also offered several benefits! First, it helps meet clients where they are at. Sometimes, clients prefer phone calls, chat sessions, or even back-and-forth texting over traditional face-to-face sessions. While this makes it more difficult to read the person, it's such a great way to bring therapy to people who might not otherwise pursue it. It also makes it more convenient, especially for busy clients who don't have a lot of free time to sit down in front of a video camera or travel to a therapy office.
I've really loved how clients can reach out to me with issues in-between sessions through text means. I know it's important to still keep boundaries with how much I can devote myself to writing back-and-forth (in order for me to maintain professionalism and effectiveness), but I love that a client can turn to the computer and unleash their thoughts and feelings to me even when I'm not present. They express being comforted by the thought that a non-judgmental and caring person is going to read about and accept their experiences, and it's a great way for them to express themselves in a safe space. Journaling is a very powerful tool for personal improvement and growth, and with clients who like to express themselves through text, it's like inviting them to journal to me and with me.
When clients can write to me between sessions, it allows them to share things that are important to discuss in our next session. It lets me understand more about the progress they are making, and the challenges they are facing. In person, I can often see that in body language and in how a person speaks; but with the invitation to write to me, I get to learn more about the person's day-to-day experiences. In these difficult times where Covid-related restrictions and the advance of technology can leave us feeling isolated, it offers more ways to find connections. Even if the connection feels limited, it's a step away from no connection or communication at all.