Psychotherapy on the Go™

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    Psychotherapy on the Go™

    Lynne Bernfield MA, MFT

    Have you considered getting counseling but haven’t because you don’t have the time, are unable to commit to being somewhere on a regular basis, or are just shy and reluctant to try it? Many people, like traveling business men and women, busy professionals or stay at home moms, want or could benefit from counseling but don’t get it simply because they can’t or don’t want to go to an office. These people deserve high quality, effective treatment and may not know that it is available. You may, like many, believe that you must be in the room with the therapist, that you must be seen, for therapy to be effective. Like most of my colleagues, I thought so too. Today I know better. I know that the work I do with people over the phone is not only as effective as the work I did for years face to face, it is often more effective.

    Working on the phone is not only very effective but also opens up many possibilities that are not present in an office-based practice. Scheduling is much easier, as no two of us have to be in the same room, building, town or country. No one has to get dressed or go any where; I’ve done sessions with clients who were in hotel rooms, friends’ homes, moving trains and airport lounges.

    The explosive use of cell phones has added to the ease with which people can benefit from non-traditional therapy. A client once interrupted a session to go through security at an airport, calling me back when he’d collected his bag and put on his shoes. When I studied to become a therapist I was taught that we “still had to do this behind closed doors.” This is no longer true. It is common now to hear people checking with their office, comforting a child, or having a lover’s quarrel as they pass you on the street or sit next to you on a bus. This may annoy the over-hearer, but the person talking seems to feel they are in an inviolate bubble, and so intimate things are often being talked about in public.

    Just as I had been, almost everyone I tell that I am doing phone therapy is surprised, often sceptical. I can, of course, only speak from my own experience. As an auditory rather than visual person I take in much information through my ears. After doing this work for a while I realized that I’ve always picked up auditory cues and that this skill increased when it was all I had to go on, much as someone who is blind becomes hyper-sensitive to sound and a deaf person is more aware of visual stimuli. I hear subtle changes in the pitch, tone and volume of the voice, breathing, hesitations and use of language, and these things have meaning for me. While this is a natural condition for me I believe that many therapists can work successfully on the phone.

    If you are interested in pursuing this there are now people and agencies specializing in phone therapy, some of these can be found on the internet. Or when you can get a referral to a therapist, you can ask them if they will talk to you on the phone. But as you would when looking for an in office therapist or any other professional, it is important to remember that not all therapists are right for all clients and not all modalities are a good fit for everyone. Pay attention to how you feel about the person. Do you like them; feel comfortable, believe you are being heard and understood? It may take some time to find a good fit but it will be worth it and if you think that you could use some psychological help, it might be as close as your phone.

    Lynne is a psychotherapist licensed in California and Florida, practicing since 1978. She is the author of When You Can You Will, why you can’t always do what you want to do and what to do about it and host of The Lynne Show on the which airs on Tuesdays at 2:00 EST and Mondays at 3:00 AM EST. You can learn more about her and reach her through her website