In today's tech-savvy world, couples facing challenges in their relationship have a new avenue for support — online couples therapy. The digital age has given us new and innovative ways to connect and communicate, but is online therapy an effective way to salvage a relationship that is on the brink? In this article, we will take a look at this form of support and see how it compares to traditional in-person therapy.
Online couples therapy refers to the practice of engaging in counseling sessions with a therapist through online platforms. These platforms can include videoconferencing, email, or text-based communication.
Research suggests that online couples therapy does help couples work through issues in their relationship.
Some of the benefits are its convenience, accessibility, cost, and scheduling flexibility.
The downsides may include the lack of nonverbal cues for both the therapist and couple. It can also be harder to build a therapeutic alliance. It is not recommended for relationships with a potential for physical confrontations
What does online couples therapy involve?
Online therapy, also known as e-therapy, teletherapy, and video therapy, is very similar to traditional face-to-face therapy in many ways. The primary distinction is in the way the interaction takes place. It can be done through various types of live video interactions, email, or text messaging. The primary objective is to improve how the relationship is functioning and bring the couples closer together.
The session will mostly involve a therapist working with the couple by providing exercises and developing communication lines between them. The therapist's role is to improve the quality of the relationship, rediscover the friendship between the couple, deepen the emotional bond to increase intimacy and work on any conflicts that emerge. Each person will be given the opportunity to express any issues or grievances they are holding while the other listens patiently and, as much as possible, in a nondefensive manner.
The therapist facilitates these conversations and will ask questions and assist the couple in finding common ground and mutual understanding. The number of sessions is worked out in a collaborative way, but the therapist will also give their recommendation. Each couple is unique; some will resolve their issues within a few months, whereas others might need long-term therapy.
Advantages of online couples therapy
Online therapy for couples is a growing area in the world of therapy. There are many distinct advantages of using these platforms to work on your relationship.
Here are some to consider:
- Comfort and flexible appointments. The fact that you don't have to travel to a therapist's office makes scheduling easier, especially if you have demanding work commitments or if you have children and need childcare arrangements.
- Familiar setting. It can be an intimidating experience to open up about intimate relationship issues with a therapist, especially when you are out of your comfort zone in a clinical office. Online therapy, which takes place in the security of your own home, can help to ease any of the anxiety you may be experiencing and help to have a more relaxed conversation with less defensiveness.
- Learning new skills. Working on new communication skills and practicing these at home makes for a smoother transition when you have to use them in daily life situations. The smooth application of these new skills will serve to strengthen their actual use, ideally resulting in much better communication.
- Support for long-distance relationships. Couples who cannot be together for whatever reason can especially benefit from online couples therapy. It gives them the opportunity to come together virtually in the presence of a therapist, which gives them an assurance that the relationship is on the right track despite the geographical barriers.
- Preparation and focus for the meetings. When the couple is preparing for sessions, they can have ready their individual and shared goals and any worries, grievances, or resentments, which helps streamline the meetings. When the therapist uses this structured approach, it increases the effectiveness of the sessions and makes it easier to address important matters without getting sidetracked.
- Relationship viability. Sometimes, the relationship might not be viable and facilitating separation might be necessary. Online therapy can offer a platform to work out these relationship complexities and make informed decisions about the future.
Is online couples therapy helpful?
All indicators are that it is helpful to attend online couples therapy. Research shows that it is effective in improving communication relationship dynamics, and it has a high approval rating for overall satisfaction for couples. Studies have shown online couples therapy and traditional in-person therapy is comparable in effectiveness in addressing many different relationship issues.
It is worth noting that the effectiveness may vary based on the individual circumstances, such as therapist qualities and expertise and the motivation and consistency of the couples. Make sure you choose a qualified therapist and a reputable online platform to get the most of this innovative way of conducting therapy.
Potential limitations of online couples therapy
Online couples therapy is beneficial, but there are some downsides to consider, such as:
- Lack of nonverbal cues. It can be hard to interpret body language when on a video call. Body language is one of the most important aspects of the traditional therapeutic alliance. Nonverbal cues are often missed by the therapist, which can affect the outcomes.
- Lack of connection. When you are talking to a therapist through a device, it can feel detached and might stop the participants from opening up or being fully transparent.
- Challenging emotions. The relationship dynamics, particularly for highly charged couples with heated emotions, can be difficult to manage.
- Physical altercations. As a rule, when there is some element of violence or physical confrontation between a couple, it is more appropriate to opt for in-person therapy. For people with severe depression, in-person therapy is also recommended.
Tips for maximizing your online therapy experience
Getting the most out of your online therapy appointments is a priority, so here are a few proactive strategies to make your online therapy successful:
- Be consistent with your appointments. Treat your sessions with the same level of commitment and consistency as you would if you were attending a face-to-face session. Regular attendance will bring about momentum and progression in your therapeutic journey.
- Be assertive. If you have concerns or preferences about the online therapy format, discuss them with your therapist. Effective communication ensures that the style and approach that the therapist uses match your personality and needs. When these are in harmony, you will have a better experience.
- Be gentle on yourself. Give priority to self-care activities between therapy sessions to give yourself a boost and look after your mental health. Take up activities that invigorate you, such as keeping fit, getting into mindfulness, or just spending quality time with friends or family.
- Dedicate a private space. Pick out a nice quiet place in the room for your sessions. If you have kids, try and get a carrier for the hour. Make sure that this space is a distraction-free zone that frees you up to focus solely on your therapy session.
- Be aware of your defense mechanisms. You will get more out of the therapy if you do it with an openness and get actively involved in the dialogue. Be willing to share your thoughts, your feelings, and your worries.
- Have clear goals. Be focused on what you want to achieve through therapy. Discuss these as much as possible with your therapist and collaboratively work towards them. When you have defined objectives, it will help steer the direction of your therapy sessions.
Online couples therapy offers a positive and effective virtual environment to strengthen relationships and bring about lasting change. It is accessible and has the ability to transcend physical boundaries. It can offer couples greater mutual understanding and open dialogue. If you feel that you need to develop your relationship, consider online couples therapy as a valuable step in the right direction.
- Frontiers in Psychology. Couples Therapy Delivered Through Videoconferencing: Effects on Relationship Outcomes, Mental Health and the Therapeutic Alliance.
- Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. Couple teletherapy in the era of COVID‐19: Experiences and recommendations.
- Contemporary Family Therapy. How Effective is Online Couple Relationship Education? A Systematic Meta-Content Review.