One of the most radical changes I have seen in my 36 years of doing counseling is the emergence of Skype and Facetime as viable communication vehicles. I did my first Skype counseling session about 10 years ago (with a soldier serving in the Middle East) and until two years ago I had a few clients every year. Beginning in 2013, I started to counsel monthly over Skype and Facetime with a wide variety of clients.
Now I counsel at least two people a week over these media–many times I counsel more than that.
You may not have considered this a viable alternative to the traditional office visit counseling session. So, if you are not familiar with Online Media Counseling (OMC), let me introduce you to the many benefits (and a few of the potential drawbacks).
Benefits of OMC with Skype and Facetime
- OMC removes some of the obstacles of counseling involving travel and location. For instance, because counselors are highly specialized in the type of therapy they offer, you may not be able to find a counselor who offers the approach to counseling that is most beneficial to your particular life challenges. With OMC, you don’t have to live anywhere near the counselor. It is possible to do counseling with a therapist on a totally different continent. I have counseled many people in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
- Health issues are no longer a hindrance to going for counseling. Some people are non-ambulatory and cannot leave their homes. This makes seeing a counselor very difficult. But with Facetime or Skype, you can see your counselor even if the flu makes it impossible for you to dress in anything other than pyjamas.
- Clients with phobias related to the gender of the counselor (especially for initial appointments) can relieve some of that stress by counseling with someone via OMC.
- People in rural areas are often at a disadvantage when it comes to psychotherapy because they do not live close enough to any counselors. With OMC, the client is always as close as an Internet connection to the therapist.
- Most therapists can offer counseling for cheaper when done over OMC. The therapist does not have to have a dedicated office when doing online therapy. This means they can offer their services for less since they don’t have as many overhead costs.
- OMC is superior to counseling over the phone, since the therapist can see the body language and facial expressions of the client. This is critical with many counseling sessions.
- When you have received therapy from a counselor that you respect, you often want to recommend that therapist to your friends. The problem is, your friends may live a 1000 miles away from the therapist. With OMC, that is no longer a hindrance.
- OMC does not imply an impersonal connection. Many of my online clients report they feel an appropriate amount of closeness and empathy even over the Internet.
Potential Drawbacks to OMC
- It requires that the connection be high-speed and reliable. A dial-up connection and a modem probably won’t get this done. However, I have had several clients who have lost their connection to me via the Internet. When we restored it, we were able to continue on fairly naturally without a problem.
- Other people can interrupt the session, thinking you are “only online with someone”. Sometimes, clients forget to keep their space free of “visitors” and this can be a bit embarrassing. I often warn new clients of this, but it doesn’t always ensure privacy.
- Some clients feel the need to be in the same room as the counselor. Obviously this is not possible to do with Skype or Facetime.
If you or someone you know could benefit from OMC, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up a time to talk.