What Is It?
“Skype Counseling” is what a lot of people call distance counseling. The reason I use the word Skype is that it’s become kind of like “Kleenex” or “Jello.” People use the word Skype to mean face-to-face counseling over the Internet. It’s also called telemental health, online counseling, online therapy, or some other common terms. And many therapists actually use do use Skype. They offer counseling to clients who can’t, or would rather not, come into an office. But there are better options than Skype for therapy.
I use an online face-to-face platform called Doxy.me. That’s because it helps me ensure I provide the most up to date privacy and confidentiality features for my clients. There are other platforms as as well. The reason I do this is that the service is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPPA lays out how medical professionals must protect patient information. The act is what therapists use to guide how we safeguard your identity and information. This is required. It also gives clients more peace of mind knowing their conversations will take place in as private an environment as possible.
How Does It Work?
The process of counseling over online platforms is pretty straightforward. I log in, you log in, and I send you a link to my virtual “waiting room.” When the appointed time arrives, we meet and get started. It doesn’t take long at all to get used to meeting this way, and once the session is a few minutes in it’s very easy to forget that we’re not in person.
There are some additional ways to make it a good experience. On my end, I make absolutely sure that I am in a soundproof and private environment where we won’t be disturbed. I recommend you do the same. That means going into a separate room if anyone else is around, and maybe taking measures to block sound such as turning a fan on outside the door. Some people find that escaping to the car during a lunch hour or closing the office door allows them to have a therapy session without missing too much work. The point is to set aside that hour for the sole purpose of focusing on yourself and whatever is going on with you, so that we can make the most of our time.
Can You Combine?
For some people, combining online and in person sessions is preferable. That way we can meet in person some of the time to have a sense of that in-person connection. Then we can schedule other times where we can have the more convenient online sessions. For some people though, the best possible option might be talking on the phone.
Whether it’s every time or just on occasion, phone therapy allows for a considerable amount of freedom. It’s good for people who really want to take time for counseling but who need more convenience. There is no reason to require that all sessions be held in the same way unless an insurance carrier requires it. At this point many insurance companies won’t pay for distance counseling. This is good and bad. It will keep some people from being able to access counseling. But for those who choose self pay, there is more privacy and anonymity.
How Do I Decide?
So when deciding if “Skype therapy” is for you, one important question comes up. Will NOT choosing it keep you from getting counseling at all? Or, will choosing in-person therapy mean you have fewer sessions, or have to cancel sessions, or even to hold off on a very needed service because you just can’t right now? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then maybe it’s time to consider looking into distance counseling.
Margie Wheelhouse is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Springfield, Illinois, but her “office” is anywhere you have a phone or computer, from the top of southern Illinois all the way up to her hometown of Oak Park. She loves helping couples to build great relationships and repair broken ones.