Voices: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy just published an article I wrote entitled Filling the Void in the Virtual Consultation Room. I describe in a rather existential and experiential way, my experience of conducting psychotherapy via chat. With no visual or auditory cues, the experience of psychotherapy online is different. Not less valid, but different. I explain how it is different and what about the process I find to be rich and fulfilling.
Two commentaries follow my article. Neither commentary is particularly supportive or positive about what I offer. And that is not really the point. After years of training therapists in text-based therapy, and now as my training includes therapy conducted in virtual world settings, I am quite accustomed to opposition. But I have noticed a common theme emerging.
Counselors and psychotherapists tend to discount relationships online. As more technology infiltrates our lives, online relating becomes more and more off-putting to some. I personally have never posited that online counseling will replace face-to-face psychotherapy. I find that both experiences hold depth for the client and psychotherapist. I see the benefit of delivering psychotherapy in the flesh as well as via technology.
Mental Health practitioners often do not understand how the art of psychotherapy can occur online. As with anything new, it takes a while to make the shift. And some choose not to- which is fine. But with the advent of email, chat, social networking and virtual worlds, our work becomes transformed as psychotherapy meets mixed reality. While online relating is not enjoyable or fulfilling for some, others view their online relationships as a viable part of life and as real as any relationship that occurs face-to-face. I find some in this profession are threatened by this notion. But I think there are enough differences between us with our lives now full of so many choices for relating, both traditionally and through social media, that there is room for growth and expansiveness within the art of pscyhotherapy.
What do you think?
Nagel, D.M. (2008). Filling the void in the virtual consultation room. Voices: the art and science of psychotherapy, 44(1), 98-101.