“The therapist’s couch” is a cliched term. Like a lot of cliches, however, it’s firmly grounded in reality. Traditionally, therapy and all related services have largely been carried out in a face-to-face setting. During the pandemic, however, many therapists were forced to adapt. Now it’s time to think about what that means for the future.
Why did therapy take so long to go remote?
Objectively, you could argue that therapy could and possibly should have shifted at least partly online a long time ago. The success of therapy often hinges on the connection between the therapist and the patient. Many factors go into building this. Some of them are hard to quantify. It is, however, probably fair to say that geography is unlikely to be one of them.
The therapist and the patient being in the same room may help in some cases. It is, however, very much open to question just how important this is. The answer to that question is probably “it depends”. Certainly, there could be an argument in favor of it if the client was concerned about maintaining the highest, possible level of confidentiality.
That said, the argument isn’t as clear-cut as it might appear. With modern technology, a closed door is no longer a decent guarantee of privacy. By contrast, online conversations can be robustly secured. Similarly, the likelihood of internet outages is at most no higher than the likelihood of transport issues. In fact, it may even be lower.
Realistically, therefore, for the last twenty years or so, the barriers to remote therapy were less about logistics and more about wellness for therapist and patient.
The importance of safe spaces
Possibly the reason why so many therapists and patients held off “going remote” was due to a desire to have a designated “safe space”. For therapists, this kept work outside of the home (and vice versa). For patients, it was a place to let loose, release any issues such as anger, rebalance, and then walk away, literally. The pandemic, however, forced everyone to adapt.
This adaptation highlighted three key points. Firstly, being able to deliver services remotely allowed therapists and patients to focus on their general suitability for each other independently of their location. Secondly, remote delivery could open up therapy to a lot more people. Thirdly, there’s still a need for safe spaces.
Creating a “remote-first” safe space
The number one rule of creating a remote-first safe space is to be very careful about who knows where it is physically located. A service like www.physicaladdress.com can deal with the issue of having to provide people with a mailing address. It’s then down to the therapist and patient to control their immediate environment. In particular, both need to think about what other people can see in the background.
Both also need to think about how to delineate work/receiving therapy from other areas of their lives. This is likely to mean having a dedicated space for it, possibly in the home, possibly elsewhere. On the plus side, this space does not have to be large. Really it only needs to be big enough for a desk (or table) and chair.