In the weeks following the pandemic, therapists were quickly “pivoting” to offering their clients virtual therapy. In the absence of being able to see clients face to face, this was definitely felt to be the next best thing. As time has passed and technology has been embraced and enhanced, online/virtual therapy is no longer being seen as temporary. Instead, significant benefits have been realized and clients are benefiting in ways that could never have been imagined.
We soon discovered that virtual therapy provided us tremendous advantages in terms of opportunities for exposure and response prevention work.
As a psychologist treating OCD, I have spent time with many other clinicians treating clients with OCD to discuss how best to deliver treatment through virtual platforms. We soon discovered that virtual therapy provided us tremendous advantages in terms of opportunities for exposure and response prevention work. Virtual therapy is definitely here to stay and here are some significant reasons why it is beneficial.
Below are my top 5 reasons to engage in doing virtual therapy:
1. Flexibility: Clients are now able to access therapy from the comfort of their own home or the convenience of their workplace. They do not need to spend time commuting to far away appointments and sessions can be booked around busy schedules and challenging personal situations (i.e., single parents with no childcare).
2. Accessibility: Clients can now access specialized therapists who might live far from their place of residence. OCD is a specialized treatment that is not offered by clinicians throughout Ontario. Virtual therapy now allows clients to have accessibility to highly specialized services anywhere within their province. Some clinicians are even licensed in more than one province, allowing therapy to cross provincial lines. Therapy is finally becoming more equitable in terms of accessibility from a geographical perspective.
3. Working with your therapist…within your own home: Although this might be initially daunting, therapists are realizing the extraordinary benefits of being able to work virtually within their client’s home. Prior to the pandemic, I would relish at the opportunity to do home exposure work with clients. OCD and other anxiety disorders often have a great number of triggers within one’s home environment. Although we work to bring those triggers into the office, we could never fully replicate the home environment. However, with virtual therapy, we are now able to conduct exposure therapy with the client in situations that often cause them a great deal of distress because we are in their own home where the triggers exist. Clients have remarked that working with triggers within their home has often been the missing link to long-lasting recovery and wellness.
4. Working with your therapist…just about anywhere: Although therapy can take place within one’s home, you can actually take your therapist anywhere! Because virtual therapy platforms are accessible by phone, a client can pop in headphones or earbuds and discretely take their therapist with them all over town. In this way, we can work with you on numerous fears and longstanding avoidance behaviours. Your therapist can travel with you on subways, be present in crowds (think post COVID!), help you shop at the grocery store and coach you through just about any activity that is challenging. And on that note, you can also virtually travel with your therapist to other destinations that act as triggers – stores, museums, hotels and other challenging places. Therapy locations have no limits within the virtual world!
5. Virtual therapy is effective: Although we recognize that some clients will prefer in-person therapy, numerous studies are now being published on the effectiveness of virtual therapy. Therefore, you can have confidence that the work you are doing is just as evidence-based and effective as the work that was taking place within your therapist’s office.
I do believe that more individuals being able to access services in the way that it works for them is at the heart of client-centred treatment.
For all these reasons, and likely more, virtual therapy is a true success story for mental health treatment within the challenges and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am not a silver lining person when it comes to the pandemic. However, I do believe that more individuals being able to access services in the way that it works for them is at the heart of client-centred treatment. In addition, as a psychologist who specializes in OCD and anxiety disorders, I have embraced the opportunity to join my clients within their home and work with them in ways that were never possible before.
We look forward to continuing to serve you, virtually, at Forward Thinking Psychological Services. Please do not hesitate to reach out – our virtual door is always open!
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