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Online Therapy or Telephone Therapy: What You Need to Know

Is doing therapy over the phone, or as online therapy, effective?

It can be, and we work with clients in phone sessions. There are a couple of things to consider before you go ahead though.

You lose some non-verbal cues. This is actually an important one for me as a counselor. Sometimes these cues are very important for me to observe and reflect back to you. For instance, there have been times when the look on a person’s face didn’t match what was being said. Exploring these cues can often lead to further insight that is valuable to you. Over the phone, you still have other non-verbal cues though such as tone, speed and volume in a person’s voice. A good counselor is paying attention to as much verbal AND non-verbal information as possible.

Privacy. There isn’t a guarantee of privacy when you are using the public network to communicate. This is true for phone calls, texts, emails and other information transmitted across the Internet and most people are aware of the possibility that any information could be captured. If you are going to discuss sensitive and personal information though, this is definitely something to consider. This post was originally written about 10 years ago and In the past few years, many HIPPA compliant options have become available.

Bad Connection. Although a lot of the time, we all must accommodate bad connections on the phone – cutting out, garbled voices, delay, a dropped call – if it happens during a therapy session it can be extremely disruptive. One lost word can change the meaning of what is being said. It is easier to be misunderstood. Both you and your therapist can usually overcome this by either initiating a new call, or being sure that you are in a place where you get a good signal.

Rules and Ethics. The rules and ethics governing counseling in your state, or your counselor’s profession, may limit how you can use telephone therapy.

At LifePaths, we make it a practice to only have telephone or online therapy sessions after at least one face-to-face meeting with a client.

Do the benefits outweigh the concerns above? For many people, the convenience and flexibility of being able to have sessions over the phone, by video, or some online therapy form, is valuable enough to go ahead. If you are able to, having phone sessions once in a while as opposed to all the time works out well.

Any other thoughts on the pros and cons of telephone counseling?

Catherine Wilson, LPC

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