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  • Writer's pictureMary O'Connor

The Benefits of Online Counseling

Since March of 2020 when our offices closed and our entire staff learned how to conduct counseling and groups online, the therapists have kept good caseloads and provide services to hundreds of hurting families. While the learning curve was initially steep and anxious ridden, competence with technology increased and students who already were attending classes online began to see their clients online!

As a Clinical Supervisor for over 30 years, I have enjoyed the weekly group supervision sessions and interaction and support the therapist give on another. Telehealth at first posed a challenge of communicating with new students and getting to know each one virtually. Time with this new method has taught me to communicate off line by phone, and take the time to answer questions outside the supervision time. We have also developed a second tier of support with in-service trainings to enhance their learning beyond the weekly supervision.

Now for over a year, the new normal is to have Counseling staff meeting weekly in supervision. They are attentive, prepared, interactive, interested, professional and have the opportunity to easily review their sessions via zoom’s videos. As we review their individual strengths and weaknesses, the therapists grow in their understanding of the cognitive behavioral methods they are using to effect change in the family system. These flexible, energetic, compassionate group of clinicians have the clients best interests in mind. They are meeting with children, parents and even grandparents to listen to the families communication blocks and help them to break down old ineffective ways of communication as well as stuck attitudes of resentment and fear toward the other family members.

Co-parenting during the pandemic was not easy. Therapists’ supervisors feared that the counseling staff would miss nuances or not be able to control the highly interactive couple before them on the screen. Therapists reported back that although it slowed down the exchanges between the two parents, it also helped to have them listen to the content, while the therapist taught the couple better ways to send off their messages to one another.

What was easier on parents was the ability to tune in from the comfort of their own homes and talk face to face, with the help of the therapist. The long ride to an office, or tedious bus ride is replaced by clicking on the link and talking to each other from their phones.

There is less congestion in our busy offices, since more than six therapists per hour can see their clients at a convenient time for all compared to the limits of the brick and mortar three available offices. Our capacity to serve has increased since 2020.

Hybrid sessions are beginning to take shape as we return to the offices. A parent who is more than fifty miles away can meet with the child in the office with the therapist once a month, and in person the other times so they don’t lose touch with their child.

How has the pandemic and switching to online service affected our numbers to be served? In 2019 we were available or conducted 677 sessions, the following year during covid with only online we saw 655 session during a given month. This September our clinicians logged in 1280 hours of online sessions! Productivity has increased by almost 100%. Our switch to telehealth afforded available online therapist gave our community greater capacity to be seen by a professional therapist, and our numbers keep growing.

More parents are moving toward one another rather than keeping a cold wall between them. Our mission to provide services to families in crisis from separation and divorce is being met, on the ground and in the air. The devastation of the pandemic has brought a new light to the counseling world and telehealth has joined the ranks of in person counseling as a very effective alternative to help families.

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