My transition to full-time teletherapy in March 2020 was abrupt. A symptomatic individual came into the building and that was the turning point for my practice. I shut the office down in an instant, emailed afternoon clients that their sessions would be online, and hurried home to shower. There was no time to take stock or think it through. I saw clients in-person that morning and haven’t since.
It was easier than expected to make the change. I was already seeing a very small number of clients via teletherapy. I already had the platform and know-how. I’ve also been teaching online since 2018, and so was familiar with (dare I say skilled in) building rapport in the virtual space.
Even with my previous experience, online therapy was exhausting. But then something happened. I got used to it. I even started to like it. Online work even began to feel fun. I found myself thinking back on the many home visits of my home-based therapy days. So much could be accomplished with the client in their own environment! And I was comfortable in my environment, in my comfy pants, in my house, with my dog at my side. I surprised myself in wanting to keep this going, imagining one or two days in the office, with the rest of my working days happening at home.
I was curious to find out if my feelings and experiences were similar to others’, so I set out to survey our members about their own teletherapy experiences. I was also curious about plans for future use of teletherapy after the pandemic crisis subsides. The results were overwhelmingly positive: 95% of respondents plan to use teletherapy after Covid. Two thirds of respondents will use teletherapy for at least 50% of their practice, some for much more. Survey respondents used words like “blessing”, “surprisingly effective”, and “I love it” to describe their positive experiences. Many felt that teletherapy removed barriers in accessing care.
There were respondents who shared negative feelings about teletherapy. I hope they find that this write-up honors their points of view as well. Some used words like “frustrated” or “mixed.” Like any intervention, there will be those for whom it is not a good fit, therapist and client alike. I hope we can talk more about holding space for those who prefer in-person therapy in an increasingly online world.
For those looking to continue with teletherapy in the longer term, there are some needs that were identified. These include insurance coverage for teletherapy, better internet connections, better devices, and cost-effective HIPAA-compliant platforms. Many also identified interstate licensure as a major issue. See the Legislative Branch’s report for more information about the amazing work being done to create an interstate compact for social workers!
For me, the opportunities feel endless. There have been challenges, to be sure. Just as I have a window into clients’ lives, they have a window into mine. It has been positive for clients to see that my life is no different from theirs. Clients will ask, “What’s that sound?” and I’ll have to explain that my dog is chewing on the doorframe or my child is downstairs belting out songs from Frozen II. Clients laugh. Laughter is, after all, the best medicine.
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