I've noticed a lot of my clients are preferring in-person appointments after 2 years of mainly telehealth (virtual) with all healthcare professionals. That being said, I still have a number of clients who have stuck with virtual appointments. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both. An advantage of virtual is that you can be anywhere in BC and we can have an appointment, as opposed to being in the same city. Whereas an advantage of in-person is that we can be in the same room, which is something our nervous systems like. As a counsellor, I do like having both options available for my clients, because it allows for preference and accessibility. I especially find that working with clients with chronic pain and illness, an in-person appointment isn't always easy to get to, though for some it's also a nice reason to get out of the house.
If you're curious about or interested in virtual appointments (with any type of healthcare professional), here are a few things you should know.
Confidentiality: the same confidentiality and limits apply to virtual counselling. A big difference is that in-person I can close the office door, which allows for complete privacy. Virtual does require you to make sure you're alone and have the privacy you need for the session. While most clients will ensure they are alone in their home, or bedroom, some will also go to their car to do the session. Along these same lines, secure connection is important. Any healthcare professional will be using very secure platforms to conduct your session. However, nothing is perfect and there is always a risk, even though it is minimal. Again, each of us doing our parts to ensure your confidentiality is important
Video Calls: One of the virtual therapy options is for video calls, using a secure platform. This allows us to see each other and is as close as we can get to our session being like it would be in-person. Because we can't see each other fully sometimes we may need to back away from the device a bit, or use drawings, etc. held up to the screen to demonstrate. Even when I've gone as a client to virtual physiotherapy appointments, the video option has been good when there's an opportunity to utilize the space. Strong internet connection is helpful. Screens must be turned on.
Telephone Calls: Another option is to speak to your healthcare provider over the phone. If you're internet connection isn't good or you don't have regular access to it, this can be a great option. I typically will ask my clients a lot more questions about their feelings in these appointments as I don't have the visual cues I get when I can see your face.
Email Therapy: There is good evidence that therapy via asynchronous email also works well. In these appointments we send each other long emails at designated times (or by a designated date). Sometimes this involves extra psychoeducational video or audio content to view as well. This might be a good option if you can't make a regular appointment due to scheduling. Ensure you do not share your passwords with anyone else.
Group Therapy: This has increasingly been done via Video Calls and is a way to engage with your peers even if you are not in the same physical location. Privacy in your space is important not just for your confidentiality but that of other group members as well. Using headphones, if possible, is recommended. Screens must be turned on.
With all types of virtual therapy, I tend to ask a few more questions about feelings than I might during an in-person session where I can see emotion on your face. During the first session I will remind you about ensuring you're in a private space during our interaction. You should also feel free to ask clarifying questions with your healthcare professionals to ensure the session runs as smoothly as possible and you're getting what you need from it.
So, those are some important things you should know about virtual therapy/healthcare appointments. Keep it in mind as an option as you take your steps into your health and wellness journey.