Your couch or mine?
In my practice, I offer the option to conduct therapy sessions in my downtown San Francisco office, or online via video chat.
What is online therapy?
The use of technology such as the telephone or videoconferencing to provide mental health services remotely is not new – but the advent of cheap and accessible technologies (such as Skype) have made it easier than ever to attend therapy from the comfort of your home.
People choose “telemental health” over traditional in-person therapy for a variety of reasons, including convenience, time saved, personal preference, and the ability to access care not available in their local area.
Is online therapy right for me?
Online therapy is not right for every person or every situation. The best way to decide whether working together online will be a good fit is to schedule an initial consultation.
In general, I recommend online counseling primarily for individuals who are already comfortable using technology in other areas of their life, and are interested in utilizing a similar medium for their mental health care. Some people express concern about whether online therapy may feel less personal than in-person work. In my experience, this is not usually the case once clients become comfortable with this new format. I also recommend that we meet in person for our first session, if possible, which can facilitate making a real connection as we get to know each other.
In my practice, I do not currently recommend online services for clients experiencing mental health crises, severe symptoms, or concerns about personal safety. Online therapy is not appropriate for clients who do not have access to a stable, secure, high-speed internet connection and a private location to attend sessions uninterrupted.
How safe and private is online therapy?
All treatment options come with a variety of potential benefits and risks, and it is important that you understand what these are before beginning therapy.
No system of communication or record keeping is 100% safe, online or offline. However, protecting your confidentiality is one of my most important responsibilities as a psychologist, and I take strong steps to protect it at all times. To maintain clients’ privacy, I utilize a HIPAA-compliant, secure video portal that is easily accessible in your web browser – no software downloads required. I also keep encrypted electronic medical records and secure email that meets or exceeds all requirements for HIPAA compliance.
On your end as the client, there are also steps you can take to protect your privacy including using a strong password to log into emails/sessions and always logging out of the secure system. A private space to talk is also important. I recommend locking your door to prevent interruptions, asking roommates or family members to give you space, and in case of thin walls, using a white noise machine placed just outside the door.
There is strong research supporting the use of online interventions as an effective alternative to in-person therapy. However, in some cases it may be safer and more effective to work with a professional face-to-face. A therapist working remotely, for example, may face more challenges with helping you access additional services in case of a crisis or emergency. In addition, there are some clients who find it uncomfortable or stressful to communicate online, even when they initially believed they might prefer it. If I am unable to meet your needs, I am happy to provide you with referrals to a local therapist who can help you.