How does the first online psychotherapy session work?

Increasingly, online psychotherapy is becoming the preferred option of many clients and patients who favorably appreciate the benefits of this form of psychological intervention.

This is not uncommon, given the freedom it offers and the ease with which the psychologist’s consultation is accessible via the Internet these are factors that many benefit from. Time and space limitations should not weigh on our access to psychotherapy services.

However, it is common for the idea of ​​attending therapy over the internet to be a bit confusing for those who are considering going for this option and are not very familiar with the options offered by the remote format supported by them. new interconnection technologies. So let’s see what the first online therapy session looks like.

    So begins the first online psychotherapy session

    Right from the start, what distinguishes online psychotherapy from face-to-face psychotherapy is minimal. The contact between therapist and patient is basically the same in either case, as currently most of the early stages of establishing communication take place over the internet, either through the psychologist’s website or through a directory of people. psychologists. It’s ultimately an email or a phone call.

    From here, the professional may consider the possibility of online or face-to-face therapyOr, the potential patient may also express their intention to use only the online format.

    In any case, it should not always be borne in mind that even if you are going to receive online care, the service will be provided by a mental health professional clearly identified by last name, first name and member number, and not by a computer program or a virtual interface other than any human component.

    Miguel Ángel Rizaldos, expert in online therapy with more than 25 years of experience and one of the pioneers in the use of this modality in Spain, underlines that this modality of therapy is subject to the same quality standards as the face- face to face. care. physical consultation, and the same psychologists who can attend via the Internet they are trained to exercise face to face: The type of service is the same and only changes the environment in which it is provided.

    At the same time as the day and time for the first online psychotherapy session is set, the patient is given simple instructions on how to start the session, which will take place via video conference.

    Exploring the problem

    Once the connection is initiated, the professional and the patient have it on their computer screen a live image of what the other person’s webcam is capturing, Pointing to the face: image and sound.

    Video conferencing is the basis of online therapy, as it provides a context in which both parties can share elements of verbal and non-verbal communication, and there is also the possibility of sharing audiovisual content in real time (which can be useful at different stages of therapy).

    In the first few minutes of the start of what can technically be considered the first online psychotherapy session, formal introductions are made. This phase is intended for create a communicative flow in which patients feel comfortable. Then, the patient, invited by the professional, explains what he is looking for or what his problem is.

    This explanation does not need to be very prepared and can be relatively spontaneous and improvised, as later the patient and the therapist will negotiate the setting of much more specific goals.

    In any case, it is important to note that these explanations are not given “on camera”, as the session takes place not by looking at the camera, which would be uncomfortable for many people, but by looking at the therapist. an interaction very similar to what would happen when they are both in the same room.

    On the other hand, although at this stage of the therapy the patient has a lot of information about the case and the therapist does not yet have it, the latter usually intervenes frequently to help the patient to structure his explanations. If necessary, the patient can share videos or photographs to provide more information about their case, provided that these documents do not violate the privacy of others.

      A distant but not impersonal session

      Most of that first videoconferencing session, which usually lasts less than an hour, it is dedicated to the patient explaining and communicating their concerns and aspirations related to the problem or need to be resolved.

      The professional acts as a guide to convey these explanations to a particular area of ​​life, but does not give orders or abruptly interrupt the other person without giving them the opportunity to continue explaining. Miguel Ángel Rizaldos stresses that the fact that there is a screen in the middle is by no means an excuse to offer a more distant and impersonal treatment to the patient, but a resource to be used to allow a type of communication better suited to the availability of both parties.

      Of course, psychologists take on a professional role and do not try to pass themselves off as friends of the patient, but that does not mean that they are not empathetic and close, or that they make relevant decisions completely. unilateral. The creation of consensual therapeutic commitments is always sought.This helps to advance therapy. Thus, the first online therapy session already ends by indicating the objectives of the next session, which will be a summary of what was shared in the first and deepen the proposals to start walking towards the set objectives.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Zack, Jason; Stricker, George (2004). Kraus, Ron, ed. Online counseling: a manual for mental health professionals. Amsterdam: university.
      • Zelvin, E. (2004). Online Counseling Skills Part I: Treatment Strategies and Skills for Online Counseling. Academic press.

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