Distance counseling, help in our ever-changing world
While the days of meeting in an office with a counselor or therapist aren’t over, conferencing these professionals online is becoming a fast and easy alternative. “Flexibility and convenience are the reasons that distance counseling is appealing for many,” says Stacey Brown, a Fort Myers-based therapist, explaining that online sessions offer the ability to stay connected when patients travel, relocate or have unexpected diversions.
Meeting with a therapist sometimes takes place over the phone, more often over chat services such as Skype, Google or FaceTime. However, Brown prefers to have an established relationship with her clients before turning digital. “I feel that face-to-face interaction works best,” adds Brown, explaining that meeting in person tends to keep interruptions and distractions at bay, and facial expressions and body language are easier to read, which often convey everything.
Fort Myers health counselor Laura Streyffeler isn’t surprised by the surge of online services. “Twenty-five years ago, my mentor William Westel once said to me, ‘Make change your friend, and make rapid change your best friend,’” explains Streyffeler. She adds, "Communication is not only rapid, but it has been reinvented. We are moving into a primarily cybercommunicating world.”
Streyffeler also first meets clients in person, and will offer online sessions when issues such as travel, illness or family emergencies arise. Or when one family member is unable to make a group session. “Online therapy isn’t a substitute; it is still real therapy,” Streyffeler stresses. Streyffeler also schedules online. Clients, she says, “love it.” For many of us, the cyberworld is the place to shop, sell, conduct business, meet/make friends or to explore, so seguing into online counseling is a natural transition.
Stacey C. Brown
Laura C. Streyffeler