Explore teletherapy sessions as a powerful tool to implement Self-Connection Psychotherapy.
Why Use Teletherapy Sessions
I’m surprised at how useful teletherapy sessions are. I expected them to be awkward or to create a technological barrier between myself and my patient. That did not happen. Teletherapy sessions are often more beneficial than in-person sessions. The process of being on camera automatically causes a patient to look at themselves. In our setup, using Zoom Video Conferencing, they are already focused on looking at a screen with two images, their own and their therapist’s. Teletherapy sessions are a powerful way to bring Self-Connection Psychotherapy to a patient.
Teletherapy sessions help patients fit therapy into their lives with less disruption. They save patients the travel time to and from their therapist’s office.
Being able to meet more frequently during a crisis can make a difference for a patient. Teletherapy sessions also overcome travel concerns for more fragile patients. You or your patient might hold back in a live session to prevent repercussions as they travel home. Using teletherapy, you can take therapy further without worrying about your patient being too emotional to travel or to function in public.
Zoom’s recording feature provides major benefits. There is no need to burn a disc or keep track of flash drives. Having their own recording on their computer helps patients take ownership of their therapy as they can so easily replay a session. Reviewing their session recording helps most patients reach their therapy goals more quickly.
Benefits for the Therapist
Teletherapy sessions make it easier for you as a therapist to monitor yourself. You no longer resist looking away from the patient during a session towards your own image. You are already looking at images of both yourself and your patient paired on a screen in front of you. Glancing at yourself is an easier, natural part of the process.
Having therapists look at their screen image is an important part of Self-Connection Psychotherapy. They gradually relax when they look at themselves, just as patients do. In session, therapists often put pressure on themselves to solve problems. The pressure on themselves can cause new problems for patients and themselves. Relieving that pressure by looking at yourself grows out of the self-connection process. Looking at yourself makes you more present — more here. Instead of feeling guilt over not focusing on your patient, you end up more in touch with yourself and treat yourself and the patient better.
Teletherapy sessions enhance the process of self-observation. Every time you check in with yourself, you can begin to care more and relax more. You may be carrying guilt over a past mistake like a stone in your shoe. With self-connection, you begin to accept your fallibility. You stop being so hard on yourself. You see yourself as who you are now, rather than who you were at the time you initially caused yourself to feel guilty. Now your guilt, that stone in your shoe, begins to shrink. You are shifting from thinking about that stone to connecting with yourself and your patients. That change in stance promotes a caring dialog and interaction.
An Example of a Teletherapy Session
One Patient’s Story
I had a twenty-something patient struggling to escape from a self-punitive downward spiral. Originally from a small town, she had adapted well to New York City after living here only three years.
When she started therapy, she said she hated her job, her life. We found that in reality, she feared failure in every aspect of her life.
She undervalued her needs, often canceling therapy sessions to be available for a sick brother. At my suggestion, she gave teletherapy sessions a try.
Teletherapy was a great fit for her. She could give herself one hour for therapy where she had been unable to allow herself the three hours needed for a session in my office along with the travel to and from the office. When problems came up in her job, like an irate customer, she began to care about her image on the screen rather than joining with her customer in criticizing herself.
She felt inadequate. She saw herself as almost evil — going beyond anyone else’s criticism by being even more critical of herself than they were. With frequent teletherapy sessions replacing the infrequent office sessions, she was able look at her own face and form a caring connection more and more often. It had tremendous benefits, taking pressure off her.
As her therapist, I was pleased with the difference. With teletherapy, we were doing more proactive strength-building and less post-crisis support. In the end, she was less caught up in other people’s casual criticism of her. She relied more on herself. She was a more reliable support for herself.
Tips and Tricks
There are several steps you can take to successfully integrate teletherapy Sessions with Self-Connection Psychotherapy.
Start out by telling the patient what you plan in advance and explain the benefits of teletherapy.
Get your patient comfortable with the tool. Walk through key features.
Show your patient how to enlarge images and how getting close to the screen helps them see more of their expression. Have them experiment to find the optimal distance to see their expression and their emotions.
If you are using Zoom for teletherapy, Zoom’s Gallery view is the best starting point for both you and your patient. If your patient is only looking at you, have them switch to a single view. Move them back to seeing your face when appropriate.
Most importantly, remember you have many maneuvers for any modality.
Zoom is a video conferencing tool. Find out more at Zoom Video Communications.
Zoom has the advantage for therapists of having optional HIPAA compliant features.
View other articles I’ve written on Self-Connection Psychotherapy, or visit the Therapist Member Resources page for interesting references.