No one seemed surprised when I decided to offer remote video counseling, but the email offering has generated a lot of interesting conversation. I don’t like typologies in general, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll categorize the reactions in terms of traditionalism and the modernism. I find that email counseling has something to offer both groups. Personally, I locate myself in both categories.
From the traditionalist perspective, the primary concern is that something is lost when we move away from face to face therapy. I tend to agree. Email communication is not a replacement for in person interaction. But it also offers a type of distance and the opportunity to reflect before responding that has its advantages.
From the modernist perspective, the world is changing. People are busy. Some prefer, and even expect, electronic communication.
Here is where I see these two perspectives merging. I consider email therapy to be the modern equivalent of letter writing. I love reading books that contain correspondence from the days before phones were common. There is an intimacy and depth to those communications that we don’t often see in current written communication.
As a therapist, my role is to help people become other than who they have been. That means asking unfamiliar questions. It’s a daily occurrence that someone will physically startle when I ask them something they haven’t considered before. At times, I wish we could pause the session right there so that they have time to give a considered response. Sometime the richest responses happen in the next session after they have had a chance to ponder and wonder. A written therapy builds in these pauses and opportunities to reflect.
I don’t claim that email therapy is the same as face-to-face, but I think it offers interesting possibilities. And besides that, its time has come. We might as well figure out a way to make it wonder-full.