At the start of any course I have undertaken in the past, I become acutely aware of what I don’t know. This has certainly been the case with the on-line therapy course that I have recently started. Nearing the end of Unit One, I have in the process of completing the module been exposed to lots of different mediums of communication that I have not used before. This includes using blogs such as this one, engaging in Second Life, and also exploring pod casts and Twitter. I have been practicing for 9 years as a therapist, and have always done so on a face to face basis – having used email prolifically in my work life which has included some communication with clients. However, never before have I found myself thinking about how to conduct a therapeutic relationship exclusively on-line. This has led me to think about and reflect upon how I have responded to the newness of the situations in which I have found myself – by using technology as an access point to other mediums of communication – and how this might parallel the experience of the client accessing on-line therapy for the first time.
Apprehension is, I think, an understandable feeling to experience when faced with something new or unknown. I remember posting my first entry on an on-line notice board, for discussion – I recall it was about transference and countertransference in on-line therapy. I experienced apprehension, then a sense of triumph at having experienced something new. Following that, I began to feel a sense of exposure – coming to a fuller realisation that what I had posted was open to others. I recall in my own experience of therapy going through a similar process of apprehension, triumph and exposure. I have wondered how this parallels the experience of clients in on-line therapy.
Another significant experience I have had is concerning frustration and later, amusement. My attempts at constructing a Second Life avatar ended in the dressing room, when I found that it took around 30 minutes to change the colour of my avatar’s shirt. I had not even started on the hair or the suit! In setting contracts with clients I have found that so much is affected by the expectations of the client and me as the counsellor. My eagerness to begin in Second Life was halted due to the practical limit of my computer’s processing speed, bringing about frustration. What followed was amusement at the irony of literally not being able to get out of the dressing room… I have wondered too how clients may experience frustration due to unmet expectations in any medium, but also how this might actualise in on-line therapy.
It’s been interesting to consider how technology has opened up other mediums by which clients and counsellors can engage with each other, and how the experiencing of this engagement can be quantified on an emotional level.