Covid-19 compelled most people to shut their offices down and make necessary adaptations to their businesses. Similarly, mental health professionals have also been forced to offer telehealth services to their clients as an alternative to in-person therapy. Being a therapist, I found this adaptation challenging yet rewarding. Opting for teletherapy is an ethical decision to address the needs of communities and to alleviate the psychological impact of restrictive interventions. Developing teletherapy skills ensured not only the continuity of care but also improved the quality of my overall therapeutic services. It made me a better therapist.
The three most essential teletherapy skills that heightened my productivity as a therapist include awareness of limitations, flexibility, and creativity. Let’s discuss how.
Awareness of limitations
Offering teletherapy made me realize that the awareness of limitations is the key to success. Once we become aware of the limitations, we begin attempting to propose and test the solutions. I faced communication barriers in teletherapy despite having the privilege to use interactive videos. It was common to miss auditory and visual subtleties and nuances in video chat sessions. I needed to depend on clients’ willingness to show or hide their behaviors. But I learned to adjust my approach according to the needs and facilities. Once I had to provide teletherapy to a client suffering from depression. His voice pauses, pitch, or any other cues were almost undetectable due to low levels of loudness. I decided to use headphones so I could catch as many cues as possible. Additionally, I realized that teletherapy is not a suitable modality for severe clients, including suicidal ones. Awareness of limitations is assisting me to manage ethical issues in teletherapy more professionally.
Providing teletherapy requires continued advancement. In my venture of continued advancement, I have learned to be more flexible. Previously, uncertainties used to scare me a lot. Teletherapy made me question my abilities and expertise many times until I opted for maximizing knowledge through research and reading. I read new ethical guidelines and temporary relaxations in HIPPA requirements and made necessary adaptations to my practice accordingly. I tried to replicate the experience as much as possible for clients who had attended in-person therapy previously. Thera-platform software made it possible for me to replicate in-person therapy.
I learned to modify and customize the traditional in-person forms of therapy to make them suitable for teletherapy. The dedication and consistency in gaining knowledge helped me meet the clients’ needs in changing circumstances. I have learned to live by and overcome the novel challenges.
Creativity is the key to solving problems, especially of an ambiguous nature. Therapists deal with a great variety of people having a wide variety of problems. Variety brings ambiguity and uncertainty, while innovative thinking alleviates the pressure ambiguity brings along. Creativity is the most important teletherapy skill considering the ever-changing circumstances of the world. Rethinking therapy sessions, interventions, and goals for every client was possible only through innovative forms of thinking. I successfully employed online alternatives for all procedures involved in therapeutic practice. Enhanced creativity is still helping me tackle innovative challenges.
Without any doubt, teletherapy has changed the usual norms of practice, but it has also helped me become a better therapist. I feel more prepared to deal with uncertainty, and it no longer scares me. I have improved confidence in my ability to modify according to changing circumstances.
Hina Babar, Psychology Intern