1. Ineffective When Compared to On-Site
While professionals and laypeople alike have continuously questioned the effectiveness of remote therapy, there is currently little research supporting the lack of effectiveness of remote therapy.
In fact, the available research paints quite a different picture. Over the past twenty years, landmark studies conducted by The Mayo Clinic and Kent State University have shown that remote therapy is generally on a par with onsite therapy is on a par with onsite therapy. The American Mental Health Counselors Association, The American Occupational Therapy Association, and The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association all support remote therapy as equivalent to face-to-face and an acceptable alternative.
Studies aside, ask the clients, the kids, what they think of remote therapy. Having experienced the wonders of digital technology from a tender age, they love online interactions. Their motivation, enthusiasm, and success say it all.
2. Sacrificing the Confidentiality of the Client
Others object to remote therapy, claiming, “Technology in general, and electronic communications in particular, are more vulnerable to be exploited, and clients’ privacy is more vulnerable to exposure.”
And there is truth to this indictment. Being worried about privacy leaks and hacks in the online transmission of information is legitimate. Just look at how the field of cybersecurity continues to explode and grow in sophistication. Take something as simple as email. There is no way to ensure complete safety and confidentiality.
Focusing on the vulnerability of the online venue is missing the point, and being human guarantees that privacy is at risk. There are plenty of security breaches in the “offline world” as well. Since it’s always been that way and will always be, is it reasonable to demand a standard for the “online world” that is unattainable in the “offline world?
The only answer is to work with a high-quality, reputable agency that can generally ensure that all of the industry regulations of privacy are followed. And everything is being done to satisfy all HIPAA standards guaranteeing the confidentiality of all mental health sessions and data. The bottom line is that receiving mental health therapy online is no riskier than face-to-face. Both are very confidential; neither is 100% perfect.
3. Relying upon Unreliable Technology
Some fear that technology can’t be trusted. Nothing destroys a remote therapy session as quickly as an unreliable or slow internet connection. The following is an appropriate strategy in maintaining high internet speed and the necessary bandwidth to generally assure an uninterrupted connection using Zoom Video Conferencing:
A hard-wired connection is optimal in a shared Wi-Fi environment, with an ethernet cable or powerline to ensure a strong signal. Aside from a working computer and webcam, it is optimal to have internet access to sustain the speed and bandwidth needed for a video conference meeting. Video conferences can require anywhere from 128 Kbps for a low-quality desktop endpoint, up to 20 Mbps for an immersive three-screen telepresence suite. Recommended bandwidth for Zoom webinar attendees: For 1:1 video calling: 600kbps (download speed) for high-quality video and 1.2 Mbps (download) for HD video. For screen sharing only (no video thumbnail): 50-75kbps (download). For screen sharing with video thumbnail: 50-150kbps (download).
While this fear indeed reveals the administrator’s concern and responsibility, it also exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of the technology itself, as well as an ignorance of the care taken by quality online agencies in doing their best to ensure smooth and uninterrupted remote therapy.
4. Compromising the Therapeutic Alliance
Research has shown that the therapeutic alliance or relationship is the single most crucial factor in predicting successful therapy outcomes. Implicit in the therapeutic alliance is the necessity of simple social interactions whereby those communicating can identify and respond to emotional cues through body language, facial expressions, and vocal tones. This would seem to eliminate remote therapy as a viable alternative.
However, while it may require more effort on the therapist’s part, much can be done to convey these cues, expressions, and emotions remotely. As many have found through their experiences of interacting with family and close friends on Zoom over these past few months, empathy, sensitivity, and compassion can be effectively shared through webcams and computer screens.
Others are concerned that remote therapy will compromise student engagement during the session. Truthfully, many of the problems afflicting client engagement in the online venue are unrelated to the fact that mental health therapy is delivered online. They exist even when the therapy is face-to-face. And many of these challenges can be solved by following some simple guidelines that will enhance client engagement.
To name but a few, these guidelines include removing distractions at the outset of the session, taking short breaks, connecting with the child on a personal level, keeping the activities relevant to the skills being worked on, and supplying heavy doses of positive reinforcement. And, for some children, remote therapy promotes engagement and minimizes distractions, making it a more optimal venue.