Barry was a senior programmer in a successful start-up company, and a few years ago he was appointed manager of the new branch in Brussels. A year earlier he began therapy with me and I helped him cope with the death of his wife from cancer.
"This is a chance I mustn't miss," he told me, excitedly, "perhaps a new environment will help me start a new life. Here I think about Mary all the time. Everything reminds me of her."
We talked about this at length, and I also thought that a change of residence might allow him to return to normal life, and even find a new partner.
"But then," he hesitated, "it means that I'll have to stop meeting you. We have done such great work here, and I'm afraid I'll have a relapse."
"I think the risk of that is not so high," I mused aloud. "Although we planned to continue until the end of this year, I feel that you have recently made a big step forward, and I believe that you can continue by yourself."
"Maybe," he continued to flounder. "But what if the fear of chang paralyzes me? Why don't you take a sabbatical in London?"
We both smiled and remained silent for several minutes. Suddenly he had an idea.
"Say," he suggested, "why don't we continue our meetings over the Internet? I'll write you every week, at the same time, and you'll reply. I'll send you a check at the beginning of each month."
Back then this was a revolutioinary idea, but I knew that the essence of therapy was not our meetings but the process between the meetings. I agreed, and we began corresponding weekly.
(An excerpt from Dror Green, Psychotherapy: A consumer's guide)
I was surprised to discover that psychotherapy over the Internet is no less effective than face-to-face interactions. On the contrary, I found that this new kind of therapy had additional advantages. First, it saves travel and preparation time and provides a special space for the meeting. Although we agreed on a fixed time for writing to one other, we could be more flexible, since we could prepare our messages in our free time. I discovered that the act of writing creates a higher degree of awareness than is possible in traditional face-to-face sessions, and that it also accelerates and improves emotional processes. The most significant advantage of online therapy is that the whole process is documented, so that both therapist and client could go back and review it at will.
I worked with Barry over the Internet for a year after he moved to London, enabling us to continue the process that we had begun face-to-face. We were both excited about our new kind of therapy and the advantages we discovered through this common adventure.
Since then, online therapy and online counseling has developed slowly and has gained acceptance worldwide, so that today you can find hundreds of therapists who treat clients online. Professional organizations have recognized online psychotherapy and have formulated special ethical codes for it.
Most online therapists still correspond with their clients via e-mail, while others employ chat rooms. Only a few use video-chat.
Following the success with my first online client I decided to research this field, and discover all I could about its benefits and disadvantages. I have documented this process in my book, The Online Clinic, which will be published in 2011.
Following my research, I developed the first online clinic, a space that integrates all types of online communication and provides a safe place for the therapeutic interaction.
Some individuals who need psychotherapy might be deterred by fear of computers or of corresponding online. But experience has shown that other clients, who were initially apprehensive about being exposed to a stranger, have found online therapy both more convenient and more efficient and have been captivated by its magic.
You are welcome to join me on this exciting journey,