A Phone Call Away
Skepticism about the value of therapy over the phone goes down as more people do it. And a recent study may help those still undecided about whether it’s worth a try.
The potential benefit of teletherapy is so obvious: it saves a ton of time not to have to wade through traffic if you’re in a city or suburbs, or drive over long distances in more rural areas. An hour of therapy time can be a huge benefit to your life, but it can easily turn into two hours or more just to get there and back. Sure you can probably take a lunch hour, but many of us can’t consistently get an hour and a half off during the day.
A new study published by the American Psychological Association took a look at the impact of “voice only” communication and its impact on empathy. The results actually showed that not being able to see a person face to face can increase a person’s ability to accurately understand someone. The study indicated that there is greater empathy when you don’t have “visual or multi-sensory” input. In other words, without all of the other signals you might get from meeting in person with someone, the emotions and the thoughts come through more clearly.
What this means for telephone therapy is that YES, I can hear and understand and help you even when I can’t see you. In fact, it may be better than face to face or Skype!
This is great news for those who want help but find the barrier of time and distance to be a deal-breaker for therapy. What it means is: you can pick up the phone, have an hour of therapy, and get back to your day. It means you can see a therapist who lives hours away and still get the benefits.
Not For Everyone
Of course this does not mean there aren’t exceptions. I do most of my therapy sessions in office and the benefits of that are also important. Sometimes a therapist can get a better sense of your well being by seeing you, by shaking your hand, noticing your gait, or even taking note of how hard it is for you to make it to session on time. A bond can form from seeing someone in person that may at times be harder to form in person. So much of this depends on the particular symptoms or issues a person needs help with, as well as the goals of therapy. Not every therapist, nor every client, is a fit for phone therapy.
However, it makes so much sense when you think about it. Tuning in and focusing intently on someone’s words, voice, pitch, tone, breathing, pacing and expression is so crucial to understanding. Being able to tune everything else out and tune into the person on the phone affords a kind of laser focus that can make a difference.
For more details on the study, click on the link below. For more information on setting up a phone, in person or web session with me, there is also a link.
Margie Wheelhouse is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Springfield, Illinois. She helps couples build great relationships and repair broken ones.