Thoughts on Online Therapy

I often get asked, “Why do therapy via internet?” The simple answer is that it makes Naked Therapy accessible worldwide to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. So webcam sessions can be logistically appealing.

However, there are more complex patient-based issues at stake; some people may rather be on the other end of the computer than part of a face-to-face therapy session. As Lynn Bufka, a psychologist and staff member of the American Psychological Assocation pointed out in a recent NYTimes article, “Therapy delivered over the Internet…may open access to those who might be reluctant to go to an office or to those who might be physically or psychologically unable to.”

Essentially, the internet allows a new level of safety, honesty, and freedom. With various options for text or voice chat—and one or two way cam—a patient who might be too uncomfortable to talk to me in person can instead start therapy in more low-pressure environment. With something like Naked Therapy, the patient may feel freer to react naturally in a session, and to talk more openly about arousal.

I find Internet based therapy to be very productive and important, in that it embraces our current (and future) culture of utilizing new technology. The problems, personalities and passions I’m dealing with in many cases are specific to the web; traditional therapy, which was born out of a world in which the web didn’t exist, has been sidelined by this technological advance. In other words, I’m treating people who are ontologically different than the people that therapy was treating 20 years ago. So much of contemporary communication, dating, and self-expression now exists virtually; it has become necessary to develop a therapeutic practice that accepts and works within this new reality.

While I do enjoy the added intimacy and intensity of an in-person therapy session—and believe very productive work can be done in such environments—I nevertheless see Internet-based therapy as a very viable, relevant, and in some cases, more productive option.

Dr. John Grohol of recently invited me to join him on a panel at SXSW in March 2012 to discuss just this topic. He described our future discussions as follows: “This panel will discuss how Internet and mobile technologies enable therapeutic interactions between professionals and individuals. It will also explore how technology can change the very shape of therapy by offering new, potentially therapeutic, techniques.”

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