Prior to the pandemic, virtually visiting a healthcare professional may have felt subpar to seeing them in-person. But after a year of conducting sessions online, it turns out that virtual therapy is anything but subpar. Study after study shows that the benefits of virtual care are equal to (and in some ways, better than — hello, no traffic!) those of in-person care. In light of such findings, Georgetown Psychology will continue to offer virtual sessions to clients, even as more and more of the population becomes vaccinated.
I had the pleasure of hearing from seven of the GP psychologists about what they’ve experienced this past year. Here’s what they said about the benefits, surprises, and future of online therapy.
Q: What is the best thing about conducting sessions virtually?
Jillian Egan: Efficiency! Virtual therapy is extremely efficient compared to the pre-pandemic commute from their office to our GT office. Oftentimes, clients were late to a session due to traffic. Virtually, they are rarely late. There is also less stress coming into a session, which helps the client remain focused and present during the entire session.
Anna Passyn: For adult clients, the ease of online therapy is a real benefit — it means less stress, such as from scheduling and traffic. For the younger set, they are able to share things, like items from their homes and rooms, with the therapist and that can serve as an ice breaker or a different way to connect with the therapist.
Samantha Congdon: It is really quite stress free — you do not have to rush to get to the session or worry about being late. You get to show up how you are in the comfort of your own home.
Diana Dinescu: Access is, in my opinion, the best thing about virtual visits. Patients can take lunch break and find a private space (which can even be their car) to have this time for themselves without having to miss any work. The lower time commitment gives them the freedom to imagine that taking care of themselves is possible even when they have a full schedule.
Q: What has been the most surprising benefit of virtual therapy? What is something that has come out of virtual sessions that you didn’t expect?
Jillian Egan: The most surprising benefit of virtual therapy with adults is that there are fewer distractions. For example, pre-pandemic, clients’ phones often interrupted sessions. Virtually, that has never happened, which is surprising! Now, a pet interruption is a different story… but those are welcomed.
Dale Sorcher: For me, especially with children, teletherapy enabled me to move out of my comfort zone and be more creative in my work, outside of what was usually available in my office.
Antione Trowers: No Travel time, no waiting rooms, a lot of privacy. People can access things in their home to reference, [such as] pictures and memorable items. I’ve met people’s families — kids, spouses, and pets — impromptu. It’s nice to meet clients and see things that are important to them.
Samantha Congdon: When working with children I have been given the gift of doing virtual play therapy in their room. We can create safe places, use their stuffed animals to help us teach therapeutic coping skills.
Diana Dinescu: Adolescents find it easier to discuss difficult topics earlier because they are in their safe space. It also gives us something easy and engaging to talk about early in our relationship, which helps build therapeutic rapport sooner.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is wary to try virtual therapy or teletherapy?
Anna Passyn: Think about why you are wary. Is there a privacy concern at home? Do you think it won’t be as helpful as in person? Then, you’ll be able to figure out which concerns you can address on your own, like finding a different location from which to access the session, and which you can talk with your therapist about, like the effectiveness of online versus in person therapy.
Antione Trowers: Give it shot ….it may surprisingly be comfortable and convenient.
Bryce Gold: Some people were concerned initially about privacy, especially living with others. This was easy to fix with sound machines, earbuds, or finding a private location. Our video sessions also have a chat feature or a whiteboard so if something needs to be more discrete, it can always be typed into the chat room or drawn on a whiteboard to avoid eavesdropping ears.
Samantha Congdon: For parents with children, [know that] your child is more fluent in technology than many of us assumed. Teletherapy for kids can be very beneficial. All you need is a computer, a note pad, and some coloring utensils, the therapist can do the rest. As for teens or young adults, come as you are. Your therapist is here to work with you, on finding a time that best suits you (a.k.a. when your roommate or family is out of the house). It is just like a regular session, without the rush.
Diana Dinescu: The essence of therapy, which is the human connection and relationship, remains unchanged, and research has shown that teletherapy is an effective way to address and alleviate presenting concerns. My advice would be to try it, as the risk is even lower than in person: if you don’t like it or choose not to continue, you didn’t have to spend too much time (or get stuck in traffic) to find out.
Of course, virtual therapy is different from the in-person option and the field of psychology is still learning a lot about the best ways to provide healthcare via this new medium. If you miss the familiarity of interacting with someone in the same room, rest assured that we are slowly — with safety in mind — transitioning back to in-person interactions. Contact Georgetown Psychology to find a healthcare provider who has resumed in-person care, a service we are proud and excited to offer.
Click here to learn more about each GP practitioner you’ve heard from today!