Since the COVID-19 pandemic altered all of our lives, many therapists have had the chance to weigh the pros and cons of virtual therapy.
But, after almost two and a half years of being exclusively virtual, I’m opening my practice again for in-person therapy. I decided to skip out on the pseudo-nomadic virtual therapy life and I signed a lease for an office.
I can’t believe it.
Throughout the pandemic, nearly every therapist I know switched to a virtual practice. And now that we’ve kind of gotten used to doing it one way, most of my friends are not super interested in returning to offering in-person therapy.
And it totally makes sense: not only is it really cush to not have to commute, wear comfy pants, and save on the huge overhead expense of renting an office, but lots of clients have come to prefer it as well.
Nonetheless, I signed a lease for a pretty penny to rent a beautiful office space here in San Diego.
I wanted to talk a little bit about the pros and cons of virtual therapy, vs. having the option to meet in-person. And ultimately, I’ll share why I decided to rent an office for myself.
Virtual Therapy Pros and Cons
6 Pros of Virtual Therapy:
1) Super Convenient
- Skip on the commute
- Wear comfy pants for work
- See your clients from the comfort of your home
2) Very Affordable
- If you work from your home, it’s possible to run a business with minimal overhead costs. It’s pretty incredible how cheap it can be to run an at-home practice if you’d like.
3) Easy On-Ramp to Private Practice
- With the prevalence of virtual therapy these days, it’s super easy for a therapist to open their own private practice from home.
- When I started in 2012, it was very unusual for therapists to offer virtual therapy. Starting a practice nearly always meant renting an office. These days it’s very acceptable to either skip or delay this step if you want
4) Convenient for Clients
- Many of my virtual clients have had an easier time scheduling with me in the middle of a work day, because they don’t need to block off extra time for a commute.
- Some folks may also find it easier to open up and connect with someone from the privacy and safety of their own home.
- Meeting virtually allows greater access for folks who otherwise couldn’t come in-person for whatever reason
5) Physical Protection
- Virtual therapy provides safety from transmitting viruses as well as physical protection from violence or stalking behavior.
- Your client really does not know where you are physically located, which offers an emotional boundary as well as physical protection.
6) Easier for Multiple Individuals To Attend
- Meeting virtually makes it potentially more convenient for couples or counseling groups to gather.
- Folks may have different schedules or live in a variety of locations, and meeting online makes meeting easier.
5 Cons of Virtual Therapy
1) Lacks Sense of “Warmth”
- From my experience, therapy leverages our senses. When we meet virtually, we are confined to just our sight and hearing to connect with each other. And even then, these can be disrupted with sound echos, video lags, and poor resolution when the connection is poor.
- There is a felt difference in the experience of meeting in-person vs remotely.
2) Tech Glitches
- Even when you and your client have the most updated technology, tech glitches happen.
- Glitches disrupt counseling.
3) Less Control Of Confidentiality
- Folks try to meet virtually in the most confidential space they have, but often there is concern of who might be able to overhear the conversation.
- When you meet in-person you have more control over some of the variables related to confidentiality.
4) Can Be Less Safe During Crises
- If your client is in immediate danger, you have less control over your options of helping and protecting them.
5) Harder to Manage Multiple Folks In the “Room”
- The more individuals you have in a virtual meeting, the more tech glitches usually occur.
- Lags and other interruptions to communication can make it tricky for people to feel heard and for you to get a sense of what is happening in the “room”.
You may have noticed that I listed more pros for virtual therapy than cons. But, I already shared that I made the personal decision to go back to in-person therapy.
So, why did I make that choice?
Why I Chose In-Person Therapy
One of the cons that comes with virtual therapy is so significant for me that it completely tipped the scales in my decision making.
I’ve noticed that it takes far more energy for me to do a 50-minute virtual session than it takes to do a 50-minute in-person therapy session.
And without knowing the science behind what’s going on, I feel like I’m using a different part of my brain to engage. It’s like part of my brain still feels like it’s talking to technology instead of to a human. It’s harder to tap into all the tools that otherwise come by default for me while in-person.
For me, personally, that is an incredible con of virtual therapy.
I haven’t heard this concern from too many fellow therapists, but I have from a handful of folks.
So for me, even though it’s expensive, and I have to commute to an office and dress a little nicer, it feels completely worth it to me to have an in-person location to see my clients.
Tools To Help You Make Your Decision:
If you are weighing the pros and cons of virtual therapy yourself, I have a YouTube playlist that covers lots of information about how to set up and provide online therapy.
You may also be feeling, like I did, that in-person therapy is more of where you are leaning. If so, I have many blog posts about starting your own private practice that you may find helpful. I have articles about how to choose office furniture on a budget, the costs of starting a private practice, and how to find office spaces.
Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!
Photo by ANTONI SHKRABA production on Pexels