Dis­tance coun­sel­ing, help in our ever-chang­ing world

Times of the Islands - - Health & Wellness - ―Ann Marie O'Phe­lan

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

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