When considering therapy, many of us think that "online" options are somehow not as good. But is that the case? Barbara Stensland was skeptical until she tried it for herself.
As technology continues to expand and become more accessible, so does the use of telemedicine across healthcare. What once seemed a "science fiction-esque fantasy" rapidly becomes the standard today.
In March 2020, I had my first-ever telephone consultations with my doctor and multiple sclerosis (MS) healthcare team. Despite a few hitches, they were successful.
Yet when I was later informed that my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) therapy would be entirely online, I was hesitant. Discussions about trigeminal neuralgia (sudden, severe facial pain) or MS-related balance issues were one thing, but baring my soul on video chat?
I thought hard before accessing the online portal to accept the first appointment. In the back of my mind, I knew I had to take the offer. Refusing would mean going to the back of the queue or being removed from the service altogether.
I also had nothing to lose from trying; if I didn't like it, I could always withdraw. For me, mental health is as important as physical health –if not more so.
I took forever to prepare for the first session.
What should I wear?
Would the cat jump up onto the computer?
And how would I begin to talk openly with someone I would never meet in real life?
I worried that facial expressions and body language would be hard to read. Would I feel silly talking aloud in my living room to a vision on a screen? The sheer distance of it made me feel uncomfortable.
I can confirm that my initial fears were unfounded. There were no technological hitches, and the cat behaved herself! After a brief period of awkwardness, it all felt completely natural.
Of course, 2020 and 2021 were the main "COVID-19 years”, when everything had to be moved online. By the time I had my first session, I'd already had months of practice with other online appointments. Everything from my university tutorials to book club and MS social groups had moved online. Why not therapy too?
There are many positives to this form of mental health therapy. Years ago, I visited a real-life counselor and dreaded the journey to get there. I feared the sign-in at reception. The nervous, embarrassed glances from others in the waiting room. The shame that the tears would still be flowing as I left. Looking back, perhaps this made me more reluctant to open up and explore unresolved issues.
Living with MS has made all physical journeys much more difficult, as they need plenty of planning and contingencies. The stress of finding a parking space, being too early or too late, and my bladder issues... all conspired against me. Given these circumstances, relaxing and addressing deeper problems were always tricky.
Something is empowering about talking through the most harrowing parts of your life but knowing that you are safe at home. There is no journey, stressors, or unnecessary interaction with anyone else. This was just about me, the therapist, and an absolute focus on recovery.
As the sessions progressed, I felt more able to speak freely. Building a relationship, despite being via a screen, was surprisingly easy. The more I opened up, the more I knew I was helping myself come to terms with life events. Together we worked out ways to make them easier to comprehend and manage.
This form of therapy may only be ideal for some. But if you're considering counseling and "online" is one of the options, I would recommend trying it at least once. Your counselor may even recommend a "flexible" schedule to your suiting! That could be X amount of sessions online, followed by one session face-to-face, etc. Whatever you’re comfortable with.
With more and more opportunities to choose and “mix and match” how we receive our treatment, change doesn’t always mean “bad.” It can be daunting, but so are many future uncertainties.
The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.
The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen.
NPS-ALL-NP-00730 NOVEMBER 2022