The Space of Therapy

March 27, 2021

Online counselling during the pandemic has changed how we think about providing therapy. In the process, we've realized the advantages of online therapy.

We made an unprecedented retreat from the physical public sphere in March 2020. Until that time, I had been envisioning what my ideal therapist’s office should look like. Calm, quiet. Area rug. Easy chairs. Certainly a window. I had been in some dingy and uncomfortable spaces for therapy, and I was determined not to inflict that on anyone.

Yet the pandemic has since shifted my paradigm of therapeutic space. It has for most everyone. Before March 2020, online therapy was the exception. It was mainly for remote communities, or communities too small to support a local mental health professional. Online therapy was for unusual circumstances where client and therapist couldn’t physically meet. Many also considered it unideal.

Yet there was no stopping the reality we all faced. Not unless we wanted to shut down mental health services across the continent and leave millions without support. Of course that wasn’t an option. And so online mental health services forged ahead whether anyone liked it or not.

And it worked.

We’re discovering that online counselling can be just as effective as in-person counselling, when we ensure best practices. Using those best practices, online counselling in many contexts opens up access to clients near and far.  There are certain advantages which many clients welcome.

For example, there’s no commute to struggle through. That means there’s no paying for transit or paying for parking. There’s no awkward reception room waits. You’re not necessarily bound by geographical restrictions. That is, you’re free to choose a therapist who happens to be on the other side of town, or in another town hours away. Some therapists are even able to see clients in other jurisdictions. Additionally, some clients have actually reported feeling more secure about disclosing personal thoughts and feelings with online therapy.

In fact, many therapists have been successfully doing online therapy long before the pandemic. They have already learned what works best, and they are the ones from whom the rest of us have learned much.

Online counselling during the pandemic has shown us that doing therapy online isn’t second-rate after all. It has confirmed our innate capacity to adapt to unusual circumstances. And it has provided us with more options for accessing mental health services.

Over the past year we’ve transcended the challenges of the pandemic to continue forming meaningful bonds that create lasting change. That’s why, at least for now, my ideal therapist’s office is the virtual space that opens between you and I.

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