Telehealth services range from pain management to medical and mental health diagnoses, speech therapy plus mental health services. Relationship help options are available, too. Even TV’s Dr Phil is on it. Though it might be difficult for today’s generation to understand what in-office therapy feels like as compared to online counseling, it is important to accept that digital psycho-social treatment brings a very different paradigm to the situation.
Some relationship counseling sites feature ads with come-ons such as “Easy to do” and “Simple” though the claims simply lack credibility. It’s one thing to access the Internet, another to tell a stranger about your difficulties in conversations, in bed, in the car, or anywhere with your significant “other.” As for talking about your responsibility in the unhappiness of a relationship, some people would prefer to stick pins in their eyes than admit their faults. Resolving problems with someone you love, or someone you might no longer love, and in front of a new acquaintance no less, can be searingly painful, humbling to the point of humiliation and very depressing. You’re not dealing with a long date, you’re dealing with the rest of your life, and the difficult changes necessary for it to improve, and under observation no less. Clickbait ads do not improve matters.
Unlike a physical location for your therapeutic sessions, online counseling adds some anonymity to the therapy effort on both sides of the therapist’s “desk.” That can complicate the therapeutic process. The purpose of relationship therapy is to teach the tools for resolving disagreements and appreciating divergent points of view. Tolerance, an intentional use of humor and the neutral territory of the therapeutic effort – in which each side is free to speak their mind without criticism – are part of the overall effort to repair a suffering relationship and the suffering people in it. In-laws, outlaws, monetary issues, birth control and child-raising are just some of the many relationship issues that couples bring to their therapeutic encounters. Online therapists need to emphasize their user-friendliness in ways that in-office therapists do not. The therapist involved must be effective in helping the distressed people before her/him whether online or in an office. If they’re not effective, the couple needs to seek a better therapist or to assess whether or not the relationship will continue or end.
Internet therapy for couples changes the paradigm of couples counseling because it induces limitations such as the therapist’s inability to observe some body language or to intervene with abusive behaviors. On the plus side, the availability of online therapists outside over-scheduled private offices, and the convenience of avoiding traffic, travel expenses plus misery-inducing commute times make online couples therapy a tempting prospect free of added stress.
Consumer Reports took an impartial look at relationship therapy in 1995, and concluded that “no specific modality of psychotherapy did better than any other for any disorder; psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers did not differ in their effectiveness as treaters; and all did better than marriage counselors and long-term family doctoring.” The good news is that distressed people were helped even in the days of when online therapy options were new to the world. The bad news, though, is that marital therapy didn’t seem to have a significantly favorable impact on the people who sought it out online or in offices.
As always, the only way that relationship counseling can succeed in any venue is for everyone involved to be doing their best – possibly better than ever, at facing their issues forthrightly, at accepting each other’s limitations and at making necessary behavioral changes. Most important of all, both people in the couple must agree to follow through on the advice that their mutually chosen therapist gives.