Why Therapists Choose Online Therapy for Themselves By Anastasia Piatakhina Giré on 5/29/18 - 1:43 PM

More and more fellow therapists contact me to seek online therapy (through video-conferencing) for themselves. They come from various places – rural areas or large cities, and from different continents.

What are the reasons explaining this choice?

In a survey that I ran this year with online therapy users about their rationale for choosing this setting, several practitioners happened to be among the responders. One of the reasons they named was that they already knew socially all the good local therapists. This is particularly true for smaller towns and rural areas, but it also often becomes the case after a few years of practice in larger cities.

Another reason is the broadened choice of practitioners. Therapists make sophisticated clients: they usually know what they are looking for, and want a particular approach that may not be available locally. With online therapy, the options are almost endless.

For trainees, having access to a long list of online therapists makes things more affordable, especially for those training in places like New York, California, or London, where the rates of therapists are higher.

Additionally, more and more therapists move frequently to another state, city, or even country. Mobility naturally brings people to online therapy, because when they move they don’t necessarily want to discontinue treatment and start over with a new therapist

My own experience actually combined both – mobility and training needs. When I reached out to an online therapist I was in training, with personal therapy hours to accumulate for my professional accreditation. Simultaneously, I was facing an international move, and it was causing me a great deal of emotional turmoil. It was not my first expatriation, but this time it was hitting me hard – I was feeling uprooted against my will, immensely angry at the circumstances and literally sick with anxiety. I was relocating to a country where I did not speak the language well enough to reach out to a local therapist. A therapist online, with face-to-face sessions via videoconferencing, seemed like a reasonably good option. It turned out to be a bold choice that worked for me.

Beyond these practicalities there is a subtler psychological reason: the feeling of shame.

Marie Adams discusses therapists’ mental health in The Myth Of The Untroubled Therapist: there is a tacit expectation for us, as therapists, to be “all sorted.” But ironically enough, we are not immune to the shame associated with mental health struggles.

Reaching out to a therapist who comes from a different cultural background and lives thousands of miles away can help us overcome the “shame barrier.” Many of my clients acknowledge that online therapy allowed them to jump into it, overcoming the very natural feeling of shame associated with the exposure that any therapy requires.

Among my online clients, therapists make a very inspiring bunch. Negotiating this particular type of peer therapeutic relationship presents its own fascinating challenges. The enhanced face-to-face experience offered by the screen enables intimacy for therapists who often find it uncomfortable to be in the client’s chair or, in this case, on the other side of the screen.

The online option may also foster cross-cultural exchanges beyond borders: there is no better way of satisfying our curiosity about how colleagues work in a different culture. I remember my own excitement as I first reached out to a therapist across the Atlantic.

As with everything new, the very idea of a therapy that is not in one single room but rather through video-conferencing can be associated with some risk-taking. I hear cautious or even suspicious remarks, mainly from therapists who have not yet tried this new way of making therapy happen. This being said, are we not expecting our clients to take risks daily, venturing into new territories? Therapy, by its very nature, is about risk taking, and as our world changes we have to adapt, and possibly take on the role of explorers ourselves. 

File under: Therapy Training, Therapy & Technology, Online Therapy