Online Psychotherapy - Reason and Prejudice

Online Therapy - Reason and Prejudice

 

The role of the Internet in our lives today is undeniable. Social networks are just one of the poles of this exciting research tool, relationship and information. The Internet democratized the access to information and research, in addition, facilitated the personal interaction between people distant physically, however connected emotionally. Family’s distance is not so long anymore, we are all at one click away from whosoever, wherever they are.

Internet is an instrument created and improved to facilitate scientists’ communication at CERN [1], whose discoveries happened synchronously around the world. The communication among scientists could take some years, given the limited technology, delaying the progress of science. Today the researches share their works and discuss it with their colleagues in real time; a scientist today can share and collaborate within the same research anywhere in the world - a new order was created.

The Internet broke physical barriers, and maybe its value in the emotional people’s life is not properly evaluated.  It is not the case of defending one kind of relationship at the expense of the other, or that the relationships "in person" are better or worse than online, however, online relationships are still a target of prejudice, and its value may not be properly evaluated.

The number of people that one is able to know throughout his life has always been limited by geographical conditions and life circumstances. Travels use to be longer and more difficult than today, and the airplane brought a big change in human relationships, making the distance shorter and facilitating personal interactions.

 Human being has always been curious throughout history. Curious about other human beings, places and cultures, but few people used to have access to experience and knowledge that the Internet offers today.

 One could say that today we can relate to people with which we share the same interests, wherever they are geographically and we may even be surprised, meeting some people who share our interests in our own neighborhood, which we would never have access, if we had not found them online.

I have seen valuable friendships built online, fundamental relationships, nutritious, creative and real, among people who have never seen each other in person. It would be a deconstruction of value, a cruel prejudice, to disqualify these relationships, or to consider them smaller than other kind of relationships.

At the same time, it would be an unreal over evaluation, consider that these relationships are better than the online ones, just because they are different. We could not forget of the intense relationships through letters, undeniably crucial, not only in people's lives, but for understanding history and scientific events, such as the letters exchanged between Jung and Freud, Wolfgang Pauli,  Sabina Spielrein, Erich Neumann, and many others. Today the Internet occupies the precious place that letters represented in the past.

 However, the internet brought a much more realistic form of communication, since the communication is in real time, and may even make use of the voice and image, in addition to the traditional written. To deny the value of the virtual communication today would be the same as to deny the historical, cultural and emotional value that the letters had in the past.

Online psychotherapy today is a reality, even replacing an old habit of having doctors visiting clients at home, what no longer occurs as it did in the past. It gives the opportunity to access psychological care, to whom has no conditions of mobility, expanding the freedom of choice, since we can choose the analyst of our preference, without staying limited to the conditions of distance and transportation.

 Online psychotherapy has advantages and disadvantages like any choice in life, but as the disadvantages has been widely discussed, raising all sorts of controversy, I would like to emphasize some advantages. I was myself surprised by the good results achieved from online psychotherapy, both as a client, and as an analyst, what made me reassess my own prejudices.

Here I would like to share some advantages of online psychotherapy:

  1. Clients feel protected and can stop the session with just one click, in case the therapist shows some kind of prejudice or misbehavior;

  2.  Clients could feel more comfortable to expose some secrets, that could lead much longer to be exposed in the traditional setting, accelerating the analytical process;

  3. External events, as traffic or delays do not disturb the frequency or attendance to the  sessions;

  4. The concentration required is very intense for both parties;

  5.  The client, as a customer, has a rise of options, enabling the client to choose the  analyst for deeper reasons, than the convenience of the analyst’s location or distance;

  6. The psychotherapist could work with clients from other cultures and backgrounds, out of the comfort zone;

  7. The psychotherapy could continue during the client or therapist’s travels, when the case demands more attention and smaller intervals between each session.

 

Therapy attendance by physical presence, of course, allows us to use several therapeutic techniques, impractical in online psychotherapy, such as bodywork expression or sand play. However, if we consider that the analysis itself takes place in the level of the transference-countertransference, between the therapist-client relationships, and that this relationship could be transformative, regardless of physical presence of each of the participants, we cannot deny that the analytical setting, required by the therapeutic process, transcends the body.

The psychic sphere exceeds physical barriers, and the transference could start, even by reading a psychological article, or some report past ahead by others. We live in a society that is changing. The Internet changed our lives and our perception of the world, in an irreversible manner. We could deny this, pretending that nothing has changed, or face the accomplished fact that nothing will be as it was before, and collaborate to build some new effective ways to deal with the deep social transformation that we are living.

 

[1] CERN – European Organization for Nuclear Research, from the French acronym “Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire”, where the internet, the World Wide Web was created in 1989, by the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee. 

Solange Bertolotto Schneider

 

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