Four Virtual Therapy Myths Debunked

Four Virtual Therapy Myths Debunked

Working from home

In this digital age, we have easy access to just about anything we want from the comfort of our homes. 

With the recent emergence of the need to practice social distancing and the ongoing move to close down all non-essential work, business, and social engagements, technology is our new best friend. We can order groceries, connect with friends and family, and call our health care providers without leaving the relative safety of our homes. Why not talk to your therapist online, too? 

Online, or virtual therapy, would seem to come as no surprise. For many, it has been the staple of their mental health support system for a long time. For others, therapy is primarily face-to-face; the idea of communicating with a therapist online in a virtual clinic is somewhat uncomfortable, almost distasteful. 

Let’s take a moment to look at the most common myths surrounding virtual therapy. 

1. Virtual Therapy is Not ‘Real’ Therapy. 

Dr. Todd Essig has argued that online therapy is “a technologically-mediated simulation of psychotherapy,” and “not real therapy”. He has created a distinction between ‘real therapy’ that occurs in a physical location, between two or more physically present individuals; and ‘online therapy’ that occurs online in a virtual clinic. Essig argues that online therapy is a ‘simulation’ much like pilots who practice flying in simulated airplanes – many of the foundational elements are present, but there is something important missing. He feels that clients are unable to connect with their therapist online and that therapists cannot empathize with their clients online. 

You only need to look at the rapid escalation in online dating, online affairs, and intimate online relationships around the globe to recognize how effective the internet is in facilitating relationships. We meet real people and build real relationships online. We fall in love, make love, and lose love online. The same principles apply: We can find healing, establish therapeutic healing relationships, and engage in real therapy, with real psychotherapists online.

2. Virtual Therapy Misses Non-verbal Cues and Behaviour

This myth states that virtual therapy is ineffective, or less effective, because the therapist is not physically present with the client, and therefore misses the client’s many non-verbal cues and behaviors. 

While this criticism may be more relevant to telephone counseling, or email counseling, than to video counseling, it is still of limited value. We all have five senses: our sense of touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. If we lose one of those senses, we don’t stop communicating; we don’t even communicate less effectively.  Instead, our existing senses become hypersensitized to our environment. Having worked as a telephone counselor for many years, I found that I could gauge the mood of the client I was speaking to in a matter of seconds. I was hypersensitized to the rate of speech, tone of voice, and volume – I did not need to physically see my client or their non-verbal behaviors to know if they were feeling anxious or sad. As human beings, we are very effective communicators. If one of our senses is compromised, the other senses will swiftly kick in to complement the messages being communicated to us.

3. Virtual Communication is Too Easily Misunderstood or Miscommunicated

We have all heard the advice, ‘sleep on it, before hitting send’, and ‘don’t text, speak to them,’ when it comes to communicating with our loved ones about hot button issues. We all know the limitations of online communication, such as emails, texts, and even phone calls. And yet, we can sometimes forget that all forms of communication come with the potential for misunderstanding. Our verbal messages with our loved ones so often get lost in translation. Therapy is a relationship that is mediated through communication, verbal and non-verbal, and sometimes the lines of communication get crossed. We might misunderstand our therapist, or the therapist seems to misunderstand us. What happens in traditional face-to-face therapy, as much as it does online. When miscommunications occur through any method of conversation, we slow down, notice that something isn’t right, and we take a pause to find out what we’ve misunderstood. 

4. Virtual Therapy Isn’t Secure

There is a constant sense of being at risk of a security breach, online and offline. We hide the passcode to our bank cards and leave our SIN cards locked in the safe at home. Many of us feel unsure which online businesses we can trust, and yet the vast majority of us continue to shop online and share the most intimate details of our personal lives on social media. 

Virtual therapy is as safe as the platform it is hosted on. At The Story Isn’t Over we host our online therapy sessions on meets worldwide security standards and is fully HIPAA compliant. All our emails are hosted on, which is also HIPAA compliant. If you are looking for a virtual therapist, or for email support, look for someone who hosts their sessions on secure sites, using encryption software that meets the highest standards of security.

So, let’s get started! Now more than ever, we need experienced professional therapists to guide us through this time of uncertainty and fear. Reach out, connect, and communicate. You are not alone. We are here waiting to speak with you and walk with you on your journey to health and wholeness. 

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