Enter the world of Skype Psychiatry, where valuable help is available wherever you have a good internet connection...
Therapists and counsellors have been helping those in need of support for years, by providing regular care and attention, as well as expertise. Until recently though, if you had a problem and you wanted to speak to your counsellor or therapist, well, you’d have to be able to get to them first. That alone can provide a significant challenge for many.
Thankfully, with the influx of reliable, fast internet, a few therapy centres around the UK have recognised the potential of video calling services like Skype to provide support for their patients. With our lives becoming more and more technology-centric, and with broadband services like Vodafone Broadband offering stable connections, Skype therapy is now a legitimate way to get support from a medical professional.
To find out more, we’ve been speaking to Dr Matt Kemsley, a clinical psychologist at Harley Therapy…
“An invaluable option”
“We began offering Skype therapy back in 2009,” says Matt, “about three years after the practice was first established. It’s really grown in popularity since then – I think clients realise that it can be a great alternative to their in-person session, for those times when they can’t make it into our offices. And with the number of tube strikes, and the bad winters we’ve been having, it’s proving to be an invaluable option.”
Although centres like Harley Therapy have been successfully helping their patients via Skype for a few years now, the idea is still rather alien to many of us. We asked Matt to give us a better idea of how it works in practice:
“Fundamentally, sessions remain very similar,” he explains. “We try to explore and understand the challenges faced by the client, and consider their healthy and unhealthy patterns of coping. The important tenets of offering psychological therapy still apply, regardless of the medium through which therapy is held. For example, I respect the confidentiality of Skype sessions as much as an in-person appointment and it’s just as important that both myself and my clients respect the work by sticking to a weekly slot and showing up on time. And just like an in-person appointment, the length of the appointment is consistent, and we end on time.
“From my perspective, a normal day practicing Skype therapy isn’t hugely different to a day of face-to-face meetings. I have days when I integrate Skype appointments amongst face-to-face meetings, and it’s a very seamless transition between the two, because the fundamentals of the work remain the same – I’m listening and responding to clients and providing my undivided attention in exactly the same way.
“One thing I would say is that Skype sessions can be a bit more flexible with times and location,” he adds. “If a client needs an appointment that is a bit earlier or later than usual office hours, I might be able to fit them in by carrying out the session from home.”
Although the fundamentals of counselling remain the same, there are clearly some differences between a Skype session and one done face-to-face. But those differences don’t necessarily have to be negatives when it comes to balancing the two:
“There are some differences that I discuss with a client at the start of the session,” explains Matt. “For example, I take notes during sessions, and on Skype this isn’t necessarily obvious. It can look on-screen as though I am looking away or my attention has drifted, but really I am writing. It can also be harder for me to ascertain the ‘feeling in the room’ over Skype, so I need to ask clients to let me know if they have had a noticeable emotional response.
“For those who have difficulty connecting to others, their preference to use Skype represents an important topic of conversation.”
“This seems to actually benefit those less practiced at identifying and naming their emotional state,” he continues. “In this sense, sometimes Skype itself can become part of the therapeutic relationship, which can be interesting. For example, for those who have difficulty connecting to others, their preference to use Skype represents an important topic of conversation.”
And the results over the last few years? Matt says the response from patients has been positive, with more people choosing to have Skype therapy than ever.
“Lately we’ve had an increasing number of requests to have Skype or telephone sessions instead of face-to-face consultations,” he explains. “About 15 percent of our requests are for distance counselling and I can only see that number growing.
“The majority of the clients I have worked with using Skype live outside the UK. In some cases where they don’t have access to reputable psychological therapists in their area, so they are understandably pleased to have this option available to them.”
But if there is one big hurdle for Skype therapy to overcome, it is poor internet connections, which can cause real disruption to a patient’s therapy. “In a setting where powerful emotions are being expressed, it’s incredibly important that there is a consistent connection,” says Matt. “Unscheduled disruptions can be frustrating and interrupt the flow of the session. It doesn’t happen often, but I have had Skype calls that have had to be cut-short before, which is far from ideal.”
Thankfully, Vodafone Broadband provides just that – a speedy, stable internet connection that will support any amount of streaming and video calling. You can click here to check out exactly what makes our network so stable, and why you can rely on a Vodafone Broadband connection.
Ultimately, Matt believes that Skype therapy shouldn’t just be seen as an alternative to traditional face-to-face counselling, but as a parallel strand of the process. Face-to-face sessions and Skype sessions can work hand-in-hand to help patients get a better understanding of their emotions.
“Many of our international clients will have Skype sessions, but if they are visiting London they will stop in to meet with their therapist,” he says. “In that sense, I think video work will be a complement to face-to-face sessions as opposed to its replacement.
“Personally, I hope and believe there will continue to be an important place for face-to-face individual, couples and group therapy in the future,” he says in closing. “But given how much more we now communicate on social media and over the internet, it is very possible to imagine that Skype therapy will become increasingly normal in the future.
“Ultimately, the most important thing is that people who need support have access to appropriately trained and accredited professionals, regardless of the medium.”
The next step: If you’re in need of support you can contact helpful charities like Mind and Rethink, who do fantastic work every day to provide advice and support for anyone experiencing mental illness.