Face-to-face versus online therapy: swings and roundabouts

When the pandemic first led to a lockdown in March of this year, like lots of other people I was precipitated into online working, and this meant that most of my therapy practice moved from face to face meetings to online meetings. This was not new to me, as I had carried out supervision online for several years, and had occasionally seen therapy clients online if they were away and still wanted to meet.

I’ve heard it suggested that there is a widespread belief amongst psychotherapists that using technology interferes with development of a healthy therapeutic client-therapist relationship. After all, when we meet face to face, we not only communicate verbally but also in a plethora of non-verbal ways that are restricted when someone is a figure on a screen. And meeting online may involve delays, freezing, poor sound quality – all sorts of impediments that come between people trying to communicate through the ether. But maybe there are advantages too. It has been suggested that relationships online are less hierarchical and that clients may have more control – this might be a plus for therapy that aims (as far as possible) to be collaborative. Also, that the distance involved in online therapy enables people to talk more openly about their difficulties, and going to a psychotherapy centre might run the risk of being seen accessing therapy, so maybe there’s less stigma in talking online.

So (as always) there are pros and cons (and these are only some of them), but at the moment, as I write this, I certainly feel that online therapy is safer for both clients and therapists than meeting face to face.

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