What Are the Problems With Remote Psychotherapy Sessions?

What Are the Problems With Remote Psychotherapy Sessions?

What Are the Problems With Remote Psychotherapy Sessions?

In the shift to digital, psychotherapists face unique hurdles, with licensed professionals like an LMFT grappling with the complexities of navigating home environment challenges. Alongside expert insights, we’ve gathered additional answers that delve into the nuances of remote mental health care. From ensuring confidentiality to managing distractions in home settings, here’s a spectrum of perspectives on the distinctive challenges of remote psychotherapy sessions.

  • Navigating Home Environment Challenges
  • Ensuring Confidentiality and Privacy
  • Adapting to Limited Non-Verbal Cues
  • Addressing Technology-Related Disruptions
  • Compensating for Missing Physical Cues
  • Minimizing Internet Latency Issues
  • Creating a Supportive Digital Atmosphere
  • Managing Distractions in Home Settings

Navigating Home Environment Challenges

People seek therapy for issues that are very close to home. Sometimes, these issues are happening at home or can be activated at home. For many people, having actual space from their home environments by coming into an office is what is needed. This can help people become mindful observers of their issues or challenges, instead of looking through that lens (which can happen in remote therapy sessions). Aside from typical issues with telehealth, like internet or Zoom issues, this is something I flagged as problematic for some clients in remote sessions.

Claire LopatyClaire Lopaty
Lmft, Claire Lopaty Psychotherapy

Ensuring Confidentiality and Privacy

One challenge we face in remote therapy is keeping things confidential. When clients are in their own homes during sessions, there’s a risk of others overhearing sensitive information. We also have to watch out for potential breaches in our technology. To tackle these issues, we should use secure communication platforms and advise clients on creating a private space. It’s crucial to get their consent and talk about our confidentiality procedures upfront. We need clear steps in place for handling any breaches. Stressing the importance of privacy and security in remote therapy can help address these concerns. Setting boundaries and outlining communication norms can support confidentiality.

I am Dr. Nick Bach, (Psy.D. – Doctorate of Psychology). As a psychologist, I have been trained to help people solve their problems to have a better quality of life. I am a licensed clinical psychologist who has received both my Master of Arts in Psychology (M.A.) and Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degrees from Spalding University in Louisville, KY. You can provide a link to my website: https://louisvillegracepsychological.com/

Nick BachNick Bach
Owner and Psychologist, Grace Psychological Services, LLC

Adapting to Limited Non-Verbal Cues

Though remote psychotherapy sessions have certainly improved access for clients, as we adapt to this new medium, new challenges have arisen for psychotherapists, adding difficulty to an already nuanced and often misunderstood job. Part of the training and education associated with becoming a psychotherapist focuses on the emotional and non-verbal communication of clients. Virtual mediums may allow for therapists to see their clients but also may limit the extent of what can actually be accessed. For example, as a psychotherapist, I may pay attention to a client’s hands that are fidgeting or closed tightly in a fist. This may signal some level of discomfort or an emotional experience that we can call attention to—appropriately—and potentially deepen the experience of therapy through a somatic channel. With remote therapy, such an indicator may go unnoticed. Furthermore, the setting in which therapy takes place is also crucial. How comfortable, safe, and confidential a client feels in the therapy space may directly impact their willingness to share honestly and vulnerably. In a remote setting, the comforts provided in an in-person setting—which are often meticulously designed by the therapist to ensure such comfort—may not be available to clients taking on therapy remotely. Though many challenges remain for psychotherapists, remote therapy is proving to still be an effective method of treatment. Given the need for providers and client difficulty in finding care, the pain points associated with remote therapy rarely overshadow the clear benefit of access that it has helped to create.

Nathan ZackroffNathan Zackroff
Psychotherapist, myTherapyNYC

Addressing Technology-Related Disruptions

One of the issues with remote psychotherapy is the potential for technology failures that can disrupt the session. This can include software crashes, hardware problems, or connectivity issues. Such interruptions can hinder the development of a trusting relationship between client and therapist, as consistent and reliable communication is key to the therapeutic process.

Moreover, these technical glitches can cause frustration and anxiety, which could be counterproductive to therapy goals. To address this, it’s important to have a backup communication plan in place.

Compensating for Missing Physical Cues

The absence of physical presence in remote psychotherapy sessions removes many non-verbal cues that therapists often use to gauge a client’s emotional state. The subtle elements of face-to-face interaction, such as body language, eye contact, and physical energy in the room, contribute significantly to the therapeutic experience. Without these, therapists may find it challenging to create a deep and empathetic understanding of their clients’ feelings.

The therapy can therefore become overly reliant on verbal communication. Clients and therapists should consider incorporating exercises that enhance verbal and visual emotional expression.

Minimizing Internet Latency Issues

Another problem with remote therapy sessions is the issue of internet latency or delays in communication. These delays can interrupt the natural flow of conversation, making it more difficult to establish a rapport between therapist and client. Timing is critical in therapy, and a lag in response can lead to misunderstandings or missed emotional cues.

This can make a session feel less personal and more mechanical. Therapists might explore ways to minimize this issue, such as ensuring a strong internet connection before sessions.

Creating a Supportive Digital Atmosphere

Creating a supportive and confidential therapeutic atmosphere can be more challenging during remote sessions. Personal touches that a physical office can offer are often absent in the digital space, possibly making clients feel less at ease. Additionally, the therapist is not able to control the environment from which the client joins the session, which could impact the session’s effectiveness.

Therapists must work creatively within these constraints to foster a warm and engaging therapeutic environment. Encouraging clients to create a dedicated and comfortable space for their sessions can be beneficial.

Managing Distractions in Home Settings

Remote psychotherapy often takes place in a client’s home, which may not be conducive to maintaining focus during a session. The home environment is rife with potential distractions such as family members, pets, or household chores. These distractions can significantly detract from the effectiveness of a session by breaking concentration and diluting the intensity of the therapeutic work.

To prevent this, clients should be guided to set clear boundaries and create a private, quiet space for their therapy. It’s advisable to manage and minimize potential interruptions before starting a session.

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