I was struck by this report in this morning's New York Times, "When Your Therapist is only a click away," which describes the increasing use of video-conferencing technology for therapist-client sessions.
"In three years, this will take off like a rocket," said Eric A. Harris, a lawyer and psychologist who consults with the American Psychological Association Insurance Trust. "Everyone will have real-time audiovisual availability. There will be a group of true believers who will think that being in a room with a client is special and you can't replicate that by remote involvement. But a lot of people, especially younger clinicians, will feel there is no basis for thinking this. Still, appropriate professional standards will have to be followed."
After some reflection, I can see both pros and cons in this new use of technology, but my first reaction was just what Eric Harris describes, an immediate reaction that "being in a room with a client is special" because there is so much communication that is non-verbal! But when I start to imagine how useful it might be in some situations--for example, emergency walk-in counseling sessions, or sessions when the therapists and clients face physical barriers to being together--perhaps they are temporarily separated due to travel for work or bad weather; or even as a way to lower barriers to starting counseling--I can see real advantages for online capability. But I would still totally worry about the credentials of online therapists and issues of confidentiality and privacy, however!! This seems like a technology that could be easily abused by the unscrupulous or careless.
But what about you? If you were advising a friend who was thinking about going to a psychologist, what advice would you give your friend? Would you recommend online therapy if it were offered? What safeguards would recommend to stay safe?