Is Therapy Video Conferencing Different - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
Consultant/Trainer/Author
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Therapy-Counseling
Is Therapy Using Videoconferencing Different? Difficult?
An Option During the Pandemic

As is often the case in therapy, the answer is “It depends!”  This becomes urgent and relevant as the COVID-19 pandemic has made videoconferencing the cautious and prudent option for therapy.  Any anxiety that may already be challenging in our lives has gotten exacerbated by the threat and uncertainty of the virus AND how might online be different or difficult versus in-person therapy. Videoconference therapy may be or can be different, and yet that doesn’t mean it won’t be effective or can’t work. And you also should know that therapy with you almost certainly will be different AND needs to be different from therapy for someone else’s therapy.  You are a specific individual or your relationship has its personal history, development, characteristics, challenges, and issues… or your family is not only not like someone else’s family, but remarkably unlike (or remarkably similar!) to the family you grew up in.  Furthermore, your therapy this time may be and probably… and hopefully different from last time (last session, last month, with some prior therapist… when you were younger, less aware, more fragile or less fragile, had less insight, more or less compulsive, dependent, or addicted, or with a different addiction)!



Adaptability & Anxiety
Therapy in general and life functionality can be seen as about adaptability and dealing with anxiety that may interfere with it.  When you recognize that something (life, behaviors, relationships, etc.) don’t work well or well enough for you, do you adapt well or readily? That is inherently often uncomfortable.  If it were comfortable and simple, you probably wouldn't need to consider or use therapy.  Seeking change, growth, or healing provokes anxiety in general, and can trigger other anxieties- the very reasons for accessing therapy!  The COVID-19 pandemic challenges the health safety of in-person office situated therapy, probably joining many other anxieties. Therapy has always been a way to adapt or find someone to use as a resource for developing positive adaptions in the face of stressful emotions, thoughts, and relationships (and possibly figuring out how the previous attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors developed so dysfunctionally).  

Meeting online using videoconferencing is different, and therapy may need to adapt to make it work- the therapist may need to adapt to make it work.  This is most likely to happen effectively if the therapist already has core values and practice to individualize therapy based on astute constant assessment and evaluation of client needs in their therapeutic philosophy, strategies, and theories. Recognizing the similarities AND differences- especially nuanced ones among one person versus others, one couple versus another, one family versus another is how Ronald has always sought to best meet the shared and unique needs of clients. And help you adapt in therapy, but most importantly in your life and living.

Adaptations for Online Therapy
Ronald's adaptations with online therapy has flowed smoothly fitting into his fundamental approach to adjust to each client’s history, personality, attributes, challenges, and other individuality.  So, how is therapy with Ronald using an internet app different?  First of all, any therapy should be different from what may have occurred from before and because you have evolved… and because therapy should also be developmental and progressive.  Otherwise, fundamentally therapy by videoconferencing is not and should not be different. Potentially lost observation available in person, requires intensified attention to your tone, facial expression, gestures, and other non-verbal communications.  Such deep attention, however is already foundational to good therapy.  Online therapy may require a slightly more vigilant process by the therapist, and possibly slightly more frequent and overt checking in as to the client’s non-verbal messages.  That may be as simple as asking, “Did you think of something then?” or “That seemed upsetting to you.  Was it?”  Feedback from the therapist may be a bit more expansive to insure more complete communication and connection.  Examples or story-telling (metaphors and analogies) which are already an important part of Ronald's therapeutic process may be a bit more detailed.  There may be more checking in periodically in therapy and in a session with you  as to how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and what progress you have experienced.  

All these adaptions or adjustments are already standard interactions and strategies in how Ronald conducts therapy.  Essentially, the practice of online vs. in-person therapy follows the same process of effective therapy based on each person and their circumstances.  Normal therapy with Ronald means adjustments where for one person there may be more exploration of family-of-origin experiences, for another cultural issues, for a particular person their gender experiences, for certain persons class, sexual, racial, or religious values, for relationship problems their attachment styles or perhaps trauma experiences, and so forth.  

Technological Adjustments
There will inevitably some technological glitches- the app or program having hiccups, spotty or slow wifi (Ronald uses hard-wired ethernet connections for his computers for more stable connectivity), low or dead batteries on cellphones, etc.  It happens just like last-minute delays, traffic jams, misplaced keys, forgetfulness, not calendaring the time, and unexpected family demands that can ambush making appointments in person or on time. The technological adjustments are minor in comparison to why you have chosen therapy. Some of the adaptations will be for you as a client becoming more familiar with and comfortable using videoconferencing over the internet.  Ronald will help you with that as needed as with everything else you bring to the therapy. Ronald been conducting therapy with some clients for several years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, so has largely adapted to it- controlling what can be controlled and dealing with what cannot be controlled.  Pretty much, a foundational way to deal with life in general.  

For someone who has not used videoconferencing at all or never before for therapy, it may be initially odd and potentially anxiety provoking.  However, as with a multitude of technological and other changes, the learning curve varies from easy to challenging.  Motivation to make life, emotions, and relationships work- to access therapy that one thinks will be beneficial… perhaps, life-altering can make it worthwhile.  That includes to dealing with many discomforts, of which potential technology incompetence is probably in your bigger picture relatively minor.  If helping you become comfortable- that is, comfortable enough with videoconferencing needs to be a part of making therapy work for you, then that will be an intrinsic and fundamental growth challenge for the other life challenges you wish... that you need to become comfortable- that is, comfortable enough with!  Taking on and breaking through the technological barrier or anxiety may be a parallel process to dealing with other barriers and anxieties in life and living.

Is therapy using videoconferencing different?  Will it be hard, challenging, and difficult? Is it a viable option? Yes… it depends… maybe.  But then, therapy is supposed to be hard, challenging, and difficult!  That’s how healing, change, and growth happens.   Make the call.  Or send an email to connect!  Or do both and catch Ronald in a videoconference to try to make it work for you!

ADDRESS:
433 Estudillo Ave., #305
San Leandro, CA 94577-4915
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
CONTACT INFORMATION:
office: (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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