E-Therapy (or virtual therapy or telehealth) is a term that describes the use of technology to provide psychological services from a distance. In other words, e-therapy takes place when a therapist and client are not in physical proximity to each other. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the mass adoption of e-therapy by psychologists. Furthermore, many people are now accustomed to working and communicating daily using video platforms. In fact, some clients prefer the convenience of e-therapy over face-to-face therapy sessions, and many have become comfortable with the technology. This post will focus on video therapy and telephone therapy provided by psychologists.
Many people want psychological services, but the lack of available psychologists is a barrier. Potential clients must search to find the right practitioner, and then they might wait for weeks for an open appointment. One reason for waitlists is because office space is finite. This is a problem any new graduate encounters when looking for their first job. Practice after practice is full and there is no space for a new psychologist. Imagine a practice with seven offices for twelve therapists. Who gets to work and when? Some psychologists must work in multiple offices to be employed full-time. E-therapy is a solution to the office space problem because psychologists can work from home offices and provide therapy by using video platforms or phone calls. In the above scenario, all twelve therapists could be working full-time, at the same time, if some of their appointments were conducted online or by phone from the comfort of their homes. This would allow psychology practices to employ more people and provide more services to clients.
E-Therapy could be especially useful for new psychologists who are just starting their careers. E-therapy could allow a recent graduate to start their own practice, under supervision, with minimal start-up costs (it is required that new psychologists be supervised by an experienced psychologist for up to 2 years after they graduate). They would not require commercial office space and they could advertise to attract clients living anywhere in their province. Province-wide practice would make it much easier for new psychologists to build their caseloads and provide services to locations with limited access to psychological services. E-therapy can also provide therapy for clients with accessibility barriers that have always had difficulty obtaining these services.
Virtual therapy can also facilitate supervision. With a client’s permission, a supervisor could attend their supervisee’s appointments in real time, even if they are miles away, by logging into a video session or 3-way call. Previously, this real-time supervision required a supervisor to be present in a therapy room or view sessions through a one-way mirror. Another possibility would be for some sessions to be recorded, with a client’s permission, to be reviewed they the supervisor and trainee during supervision sessions. This is already a widespread practice in psychologist training. With e-therapy, a supervisor would have access to a supervisee’s client list, session notes, practice calendar, and video platform, and manage the finances all from a distance.
This type of therapy could become a mainstay in university training as well. Psychologists complete practicums and internships as part of their training for several years. But just like after they graduate, schools and placement sites only have so much office space. If some students were providing e-therapy from their schools or homes, under supervision, they could see many more clients. During my training, practicums and internships were mostly unpaid and free for clients. Free or low-cost e-therapy by psychology students would provide students with more practice hours than they need for graduation and qualification for their doctoral internship. As you can tell from this post, I think e-therapy is a great advancement for psychology and I truly hope it becomes a normal, permanent part of psychologist training and professional practice.
For Further Reading:
Bibliography of Telehealth Research
Interim Ethical Guidelines for Psychologists Providing Psychological Services via Electronic Media from CPA 2020
Confessions of a Virtual Therapist
In Defense of Telehealth
Photo by Jopwell from Pexels
Dr. Candice Bovell, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a Clinical Psychologist who treats adults with depression, anxiety, and stress online in Ontario, Canada.
Candice Bovell, Ph.D., C.Psych.
*How to Book Appointments with Dr. Candice Using Jane App
*How to Read Emails Sent Through Hushmail
*How to Join a Zoom for Healthcare Appointment
*How to Deal with Work Stress-5 Tips
*5 Types of Psychotherapy Homework
*5 Tips for CBT Success
*Interested in Trying E-Therapy?
*E-Therapy is Great for the Field of Psychology
*Psychologist Recommended Resources for Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic
*Activate Your Mood with Behavioural Activation
*Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or Psychotherapist...What's the Difference?
*Thinking About Using Thought Records
*Thank Goodness for Gratitude Journals!
Banner by James Wheeler (Pexels.com)