By: Trivium's Therapist Team Coordinator
Amy McKenzie, LCPC, ACADC
Virtual therapy has been around since the 1980s, however, in the last few years it has gained increased popularity. When considering the efficacy of virtual therapy opposed to in- person therapy, it is important to know several things. First, both types of therapy result in high levels of satisfaction. In fact, 93% of people surveyed stated they felt they could present the same information in both versions. Second, both virtual therapy and in-person are effective for the reduction of PTSD symptoms. Finally, both use evidence-based practices, can be HIPAA compliant, and allow for synchronous and asynchronous modalities.
Offering virtual therapy has benefits not only for clinicians, but also for clients; there is a huge draw for first-timers because we live in a digital age. It can reduce their travel time and loss of work. It can also allow more clients to seek treatment, as it reduces stigma or fear they may feel about being seen going to a treatment center or counseling. There can also be increased affordability, with clinicians who practice virtually having fewer overhead fees. Virtual therapy also allows for a reduction of barriers to treatment for those that live in rural areas.
Trying to keep clients engaged in virtual therapy is a different skill set than in-person. Clinicians need to minimize distractions for the client and encourage them to do so as well. Making sure clients are wearing appropriate attire for the appointment and treating it as if they were coming into the office can also increase engagement. The use of mixed media, like videos or a whiteboard, along with a dynamic presentation, can assist in maintaining the client’s focus. When in a session, it is important for not only the client, but also the clinician to turn off their self-view. We are not made to look at ourselves all day in a video and it can negatively effect self-esteem to do so in appointments.
Virtual therapy facilitators need to ensure they are still receiving regular supervision and peer support, as working exclusively online can become isolating. It is also beneficial to know where the client is attending therapy and who their emergency contact is, in case safety is in question.
The key things to remember are virtual therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy; it increases access to care; and virtual therapy facilitators need additional support.
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