Does online psychoanalytic psychotherapy work?
Entering the world of the internet a few years back, psychotherapists could not even conceive of the idea that psychoanalytic psychotherapy online would ever be possible. With today’s technology rapidly advancing and our ways of communicating expanding, some psychotherapists are still hesitant about using this technology in their profession. It makes sense. It might be possible for us to talk and see each other with thousands of miles between us, through the use of a camera, but this doesn’t automatically mean that it is also effective when it comes to psychotherapy. This is answered below.
Questions and answers regarding psychoanalytic psychotherapy online
Communication through the use of a camera comes lacking.
This very basic objection to online therapy is about the online psychotherapist and the client not being able to create a relationship between them so as to foster the development of the therapeutic process. No doubt, not all senses are used when talking through the internet. Nonetheless, body language such as facial expressions, nervous responses, tone of voice, etc., which reveal all kinds of nuances and unconscious material, is quite visible through the camera. One might ask, “so is it then possible for two people to come together and feel close enough to talk about difficult feelings, turmoil, fear, anger, sorrow and distress”? The answer is yes. It is and it can work very well.
I think it would be better if I just chat through a messenger software with a therapist. That way I can remain anonymous.
This may very well seem safer to you, as your therapist won’t be able to see you or hear your voice, but you will also not be able to see or hear them and so you will miss a great deal of cues that will help you to feel safe slowly and gradually and to develop trust with your online therapist. Psychotherapy is very much based on building, developing and maintaining a trusting, meaningful relationship with your therapist. If difficulties in relationships have led you to therapy and you are finding it difficult to trust, it follows that it would be to your advantage to take a chance in building such a relationship with your therapist and going through the insecurities, hardships, rewards and negotiations that come with building a relationship, so that you are able to deal with them and be more ready to do so in relationships with other important people in your life. It seems difficult to imagine this happening with someone if you can’t see or hear them.
How can it be possible for me to talk into a camera about my thoughts, feelings, internal struggles and worries?
It is possible. You quickly get used to the camera and, soon enough, what really counts is the good relationship you are developing with your therapist; not the screen between the two of you. In fact, some people feel it’s much more comfortable for them to talk about their difficulties in their own space, because they feel more at ease.
But video conferencing has all kinds of problems. Connection issues, strange sounds, beeps and blips…etc.
Yes. Although this is not a regular occurrence, particularly when you have a good internet connection, this creates a glitch in the flow of the therapeutic process. However, so do the cars in the street outside the therapist’s space, the occasional banging from another area in the building surrounding the space, the client’s telephone that may need to remain on during the session and so on and so forth. Life is full of interruptions and intrusions from various sources and it’s always necessary to be able to carry on despite these disturbances. If you can learn to deal with them in therapy, you are much more likely to be able to deal with them in other areas of your life.
Can I lie on the couch, just like I would at my analyst’s office?
It is also possible to lie on the couch while doing online psychotherapy, if you so wish. You would need a comfortable couch of your own to lie on, while placing your device on a table behind you or on your side, thus simulating the same conditions you would find in a psychoanalytic psychotherapist’s therapy space. It would help in this case to use headphones with a microphone so that your online therapist can hear you better on her end.
So, does online psychotherapy work?
Yes it does. However, there are situations in which psychoanalytic psychotherapy online would not be appropriate. Do take a moment to read the limitations of online psychotherapy, including some of the simple guidelines that you would need to follow in order to help you to create the optimal psychotherapy space in your own home or office.