Who does online therapy appeal to? Who can make the most use of it? Is it just a next-best for people who cannot access ‘proper’ face to face therapy services, or might it actually be ideally suited to certain personality types?
Who does online therapy appeal to? Who can make the most use of it? Does it have any advantages over face to face therapy at all, or is it just a next-best for people who cannot access ‘proper’ face to face therapy or counselling services?
I have been wondering about this for awhile as I start up my online practice, and watch my own reactions, as a therapist. I was one of the ones who initially dismissed the whole idea as missing out on the vital heart of therapy, the meeting of two human beings, with one of the aims, for me at least, being integration of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves. How could this kind of communication in all its intricacy be possible through a simple exchange of written words? Would it not be some kind of fatal over-simplification to even try?
That was my first reaction. Then I started to look a little deeper at my own life. I am, amongst other things, a writer. This means that my relationship with the word on the page is quite a special one. It is intimate, and it is capable of expressing things which I could not actually say in any other way. Even — gasp — in the presence of a therapist!
I am also, according to the Myers-Briggs test (which I find quite illuminating) and according to every common knowledge definition of the word, an introvert. This means, not that I am a misanthrope who dresses in black and cannot utter a word in conventional social situations (that is all behind me now!) but that I recharge my batteries best by being alone. I like my own company and find energy, insight and creativity through being with myself. The presence of others can even sometimes be a little overwhelming to me. At the same time I am deeply fascinated by, and fond of, people, and I certainly need and highly value a small number of deep friendships.
What has this got to do with online therapy? Well I’ve come to see that it suits certain parts of my nature down to the ground! While I cannot envisage ever giving up face to face work and the mysteries and complexities of presence in the moment, I have come to love some things about the online therapeutic relationship.
Firstly, online therapy taps into a capacity for real concentration that surfaces the best when I am alone. I can ‘hear’ more exactly what the client is saying. Secondly, I get a chance to say exactly what I mean back. This would be even more important to me were I on the client side. Concentration and clarity can be enhanced. Clarity in fact has to be enhanced because so many cues are missing. Both counsellor and client have to work out ways of communicating fully and precisely what they mean. Lots of normally implicit things (or things we hope are implicit!) may need to be made explicit. Introverts may have a head start on the process of communicating on this level, as they tend to prefer a few deep and close relationships, one-on-one meetings which include sharing feelings and experiences, and ‘being together’, rather than having a larger number of friendships based on ‘doing things together’.
For introverted clients who enjoy finding moments for reflection, introspection or just being it is quite a gift to be able to share this immediately with the therapist by writing at exactly those times (this obviously refers to asynchronous online therapy). This kind of asynchronous arrangement also suits people who like to be self-directed and autonomous rather than fitting into the programme, or compromising on individual ideas or flexibility by working with a team.
If therapy is largely about learning to be in a nurturing and inspiring relationship with ourselves, then a means of doing therapy which creates a kind of privacy and intimacy at the same time as the experience of sharing and dialogue, may well be extra facilitative.
While this train of thought has me fascinated, I am quite aware that there are bound to be introverts who feel quite differently and extroverts who also find that online therapy suits them just fine. As usual in therapy, as in everything else, the key lies in what suits you, personally, what really feels as if it fits.
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by