I recently read an article in the New Yorker that highlighted the difficulty some psychotherapists are having during the lockdown. With clients not coming to their offices, they were lamenting the changes they were having to make to connect with clients in a different way. Many of them were struggling with having to switch to online sessions, having trouble with the technology and replicating that special bond they felt they had with their clients through the office environment. Some had shut down temporarily and others were amazed that their clients might also be in the middle of another activity while talking. One notable example was a woman who asked if she could do her gym routine at the same time. Many were amazed at the state of some of homes their clients lived in or how they dressed when they stay at home. Reality bites and the end of an era for those who cannot adapt.
Covid has changed many aspects of our lives and some of that change will hit therapists and the way they provide therapy. However, I believe this change was starting before Covid hit and now many therapists are unprepared for the future. I gave up my office based practice 12 years ago and took it fully online. It was initially for my own convenience but it quickly became clear that clients loved it too. I have had sessions with people in bed, in the garden, in the kitchen, in the office, sitting in their car and out walking.
One of the main arguments put forward by the therapists interviewed was that the office , its decoration and the atmosphere was an integral part of the therapy experience. They cited clients who had told them that coming to the office sitting amongst the bookcases and leather chairs made them feel special. However, some also said that they found it intimidating and they were unable to feel comfortable enough to open up. There will always be clients who will want the office experience but I firmly believe it will not be the norm in years to come and Covid might well quicken that development.
We live in a fast-paced world and information is and needs to be at our fingertips. Technology enables us to access this information quickly and reliably and this is what we expect. It is also what we will come to demand from therapy and the way therapy is delivered.
There is, in my opinion, already a blurring of the lines between therapy and coaching. People want solutions and a process to reach them. Some therapies that by default, take years of reflection are not being funded as much by managed care systems and insurance companies, though that is not the main reason for the change. Just as people want information at their fingertips, they also want to be helped in the same way. Clients are also asking for more flexibility in the delivery of therapy in terms of methods and availability.
I can only speak for myself in the way I offer therapy. Obviously, formal sessions are held via video with assignments to do but there are additional features that compliment that. Clients can contact me via email between sessions and will be guaranteed an answer within an hour. For emergencies, I use an encrypted chat system which has been a big success with the clients who use it. Coming soon is an app with free resources including instant chat and eventually other features as time goes on. This, I firmly believe, is just the beginning. Nowadays, there is pressure to write, to produce visual and audio media content and to reach audiences through social media accounts.
More is expected than just a session per week in a mahogany cloaked office. Those who do not see this will quickly disappear.