Is therapeutic intimacy possible when working online?
by Adrian Holmes /2 min read
Like many of us, Covid-19 has certainly challenged me to dive deep into the daunting and largely unfamiliar territory of online therapeutic work within my community.
I had always convinced myself – and anybody else who was curious enough to enquire – that I preferred to work face to face with people, because I appreciated the opportunities to connect in meaningful and immediate ways.
It was just a really lucky coincidence too, that it also meant I avoided those nasty little badgering gremlins which appeared whenever I attempted something new with foreign technology.
I had long ago decided that what I lost in convenience, I made up for in genuine human connections – that is until Covid-19 – and a very interesting “TED Connects Zoom Interview” with a prominent psychiatrist in Germany, blew my nicely polished story out of the water.
This clinical psychologist practices all over Europe with the majority of her clients online and from all across the world – and she recently wrote a paper on the unique opportunities that accompanied her work with clients via FaceTime and Skype.
She referred to the “power rebalancing” that happens when both parties have to work to develop a “new” space on line together, rather than the client entering the therapist’s own therapeutic space. She believes that this significantly changes the relationship dynamic between client and therapist.
She also shared a recent experience where – as a result of Covid-19 – she was working with a client online for the first time, who she had previously always seen in her office. In her conversation with this client, she noticed that he was sitting where he had a view outside his window to a large tree in his garden.
As she commented on the tree and enquired about his view of it, she was amazed at where the conversation took them – to a very different, deeper place than they had ever gone before. She realised that she had been invited to “look through the client’s window” into his world online, which may never have been possible in a face to face conversation.
These ideas have really challenged my long-held belief that “face to face” is better and invited me to reflect on what may be possible if I were to let go of this outdated idea and instead lean into the new possibilities that can come from online work.
I would love to hear about your experience with on line work and what this has made possible for you.
Article written by SKATTLE counsellor Michelle Fairbrother