Life Beyond Lockdown
The article focuses on how the pandemic will ultimately change the public's perception and use of online resources.
Online mental health therapy versus face-to-face therapy.
Life Beyond Lockdown
Firstly, mental health therapy comes in many forms. We’d like to make the distinction between face-to-face and in-person. Unless the consultation is by phone or a messaging service, it is always face-to-face whether it is through some form of online video link or in-person when a client has visited a clinic, you are still talking one-to-one, face-to-face. Therapists choose different techniques to train in and each offer varying levels of support for clients / patients.
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As we are dealing with matters of the mind, online therapy can be a highly effective way for clients to access their therapist. Online therapy is completely safe and highly convenient. The client can schedule an appointment at a time that suits them and have the session from the comfort of their own home. This can be very useful if clients are experiencing anxiety over leaving their home and going out into the community. It is also appropriate if someone travels a lot or has a very busy schedule, which would mean they wouldn’t have time to have therapy if it wasn’t online. It has been especially important during the pandemic when we have treated clients who are self-isolating, socially distancing or living in unhappy circumstances with others, in the most extreme and dire situations of loneliness and despair. For someone suicidal, online therapy is an immediate source of support which, of course, is vital.
We are trained in and practice an Integrative Therapy Approach. According to a customer / patient's needs and wishes, we offer a personal programme of: Counselling; Clinical Psychotherapy; SFBT (Solution Focused Brief Therapy), which is a highly effective talking therapy aimed at speeding up the therapeutic process and encouraging the client to find their own solutions, which creates organic and durable results; the very popular CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy); Advanced Medical Hypnotherapy, involving self-hypnosis techniques to empower the client; NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming); Solution Focused Mindfulness, including fast track breathing and anchoring techniques; and the latest research-based and clinically-proven neuroscience.
All of these methods are compatible and ideal for online therapy and all have produced excellent recorded results. The benefit of an Integrative approach is the ability to create a personalised programme for the client, one which they can play a part in creating as the solutions and practices available are described and explained.
Having such a broad and solid body of work to draw upon is a wonderful asset in the consultation room, because no two people are the same and neither are their issues or circumstances. Therefore, no one particular therapy is going to fit all. So, whilst specialising in tried and tested techniques, you can offer a highly bespoke programme for individuals.
At the core, our training in Solution Focused Brief Therapy hinges on the understanding that the client already has the right solutions for them to achieve a preferred future. It’s our job to facilitate their journey, offering the platform and lighting the way so to speak. If we are stressed, anxious or depressed, we lose the ability to innovate, to try something different and to access these solutions. So we often become stuck in a negative feedback loop. Depending on an individual’s situation and issues, SFBT generally creates a very quick recovery pathway for clients, which is a great positive. It is also proving to be longer lasting.
So, given the right therapist with an effective technique and a professional expertise, (and we would always champion a Solution Focused approach) online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy.
Hypnotherapy is widely misunderstood as people often think they will be induced into a completely unconscious state of mind where they will be out of control. This is not so at all, especially in Medical Hypnotherapy, because with Solution Focused work, we desire the client to come up with solutions themselves, to problems they have identified they need solutions for. This is best achieved in Theta (also known as Trance), which is simply the relaxed state between wakefulness and sleep. In this state of mind, the brain is very suggestible to guided imagery. So, if we’ve just been discussing positive changes during the Psychotherapy (talking) part of the session, they will naturally, lucidly and consciously daydream about this during Trance Hypnosis and this really helps the mind to imagine how things can be better. Consequently, this helps the individual to actually practise this in their everyday lives. The subconscious mind is like a very natural, very safe virtual rehearsal room, which makes it ideal to work with ‘virtually’.
If clients practise these methods online with us, but in their home environment, it often helps them to practise the techniques more easily in between sessions.
Hypnosis is actually a focused state of attention. Everyone can go into Hypnosis and they all go into it differently, but none of them are wrong. We don’t need to be lying on a couch (although it helps the relaxation process) and we can move around, scratch, fidget it’s all fine, because it’s a very natural state of mind.
It is, of course, very beneficial for humans to enjoy regular positive interactions. This is because we produce what we call Happy Reward Chemicals whenever we enjoy positive human contact. These Neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) are a major factor in our mental health and general wellbeing because they encourage us to be happy, brave, confident and they foster high levels of confidence and self-esteem.
We don’t actually need to be in the same room as someone to fully enjoy human interactions. Having said that, this will vary from person to person. But if the only contact someone is having is with their online therapist that is definitely a good thing. Naturally, a competent therapist will encourage their clients to become gradually more sociable as the process unfolds but it is important to work at the speed that the client is comfortable. This ensures that the changes an individual makes are lasting and durable as they do so in accumulated small steps that they can embed whilst working towards a bigger goal.
Having online contact with a therapist presents no problems if, between sessions, the client is proactively practising such positive interactions in their everyday life. We encourage clients to develop positive activities that involve other people as well as casual social interactions. This way, they are building up a healthy lifestyle for themselves during the programme so they will cope much better in the long run.
We have been providing online therapy for clients all around the world for some 5 years now so when the Lockdown came into place, it was just a case of transferring our in-person clients to our special online portal. We have developed a specific therapy-friendly software that allows us to show our clients slides and text that we know will help them. It is super-easy to use. There’s no need to download anything, they just click a link we email them and they are in.
We are also part of an international research programme that uses a software package that is collating solution focused data to show how effective our work is. So, we were already very comfortable and experienced operating online.
There have never been any real issues for us working online and, being solution focused, there is always a solution to any problem or challenge. Sometimes, a client’s internet connection is a bit weak but we have always managed to communicate effectively. Occasionally, a more mature client or one who deems themselves to be a techno dinosaur, will resist working online, but after they’ve had a session, they realise how easy it is, and end up being very comfortable with the process. We’ve had cats and dogs and children join the sessions - not all at the same time mind you!
But all this is part of the client’s life, so we just take it all in our stride. It can often relax a person if something unexpected happens. For instance, one time, one of our clients (who was working online with Enfys) was finding it hard to relax at the start of the session when a delivery driver started knocking incessantly on the door. He would not stop knocking, even though she’d put a note on the door requesting not to disturbed for an hour. She ended up accepting the parcel through the window. She was laughing and chatting to the delivery man, which totally put her at ease for the session. Another time, Gareth was working online with a student in halls of residence and throughout the duration of the session they were interrupted by the plumber who’d come to fix the sink, the cleaner and her next door roomy. She had been having sessions for exam stress and phobia, so the bottom line was that she had that time with Gareth the morning of her exam and he was able to get her all prepared. She ended up getting a distinction. If she hadn’t had an online session, she wouldn’t have had time to get to a clinic and back in time for her exam.
Before we started being online therapists, we had several years of training and experience in our in-person clinic. We believe this was an important stepping stone, which now enables us to practise online with all that expertise under our belts. Being a good therapist involves so much more than technique. It is about being able to read a person very quickly in order to help them, it’s about body language, facial expressions, verbal cues, questioning correctly, listening intently and facilitating the client to find their own solutions. It’s also about empathy, compassion, instinct and understanding the intuitive nature of humans.
Many believe that over use of “blue screen technology” (TVS, computers, phones) is detrimental for mental health and general wellbeing. It can cause all sorts of physiological (the body’s reactions to stress arousal) problems from stomach issues (nausea, IBS, butterfly jitters), palpitations, panic attacks, headaches, blurred vision, the list goes on. However, we would prefer that an individual spend one more hour with us online if it means that we can help them to reduce their overall phone, tablet, computer, tv or gaming usage.
Over use of any online technology is one of the common issues we deal with, especially in the younger generation. Interestingly, this demographic has seeped up the generations over the years. Youngsters often prefer online therapy as they relate to it more easily. It is fast-becoming a preferred means of communication. If we can hook in a client’s openness to the process of change, we will happily operate through whatever mode of communication they are most receptive to.
It is important that a client buys in to the healing process. The more a client understands about the neuroscientific effects of their choices, behaviours and patterns, the easier it is going to be for them to make the changes they need to in order to gain a better control over themselves and their lives. During the healing journey we will use various methods to help an individual to literally rewire their brains by changing the chemistry of their mind. This might sound a bit sci-fi but it’s actually pretty straightforward and a bit like being your own natural pharmacist and the hormones produced from this organic prescription will only be positive healthy ones.
Think about it. Produce too many stress hormones (like The Nasties: adrenalin and cortisol) due to too much negative thinking and you get stuck in the primitive Limbic part of the brain (fight, flight and freeze). Turn things around with professional support so that you’re now producing a steadily increasing amount of the Happy Reward Chemicals like Serotonin (“Happiness”), Dopamine (“The Anticipation of Happiness”), Endorphins (“Calmness”), and Oxytocin (“The Love & Bonding Chemical”) aka The Good Guys. Once you do, you will have a completely different perspective on your life and actually want to do healthy things and look after yourself. Therapy needs to be a team effort: great therapeutic technique that facilitates a focused and committed holistic effort from the client.
We think we need to accept that our ‘New Normal’ will continue to include a heavier bias towards online services in all sorts of fields: mental therapy and wellbeing, general health, education, translating, tutoring, training, shopping, catering, almost every sector you can think of. We have witnessed our clients, our friends and our families adapting to the recent enforced changes with extraordinary ingenuity and bravery.
Humans are inherently resourceful to the ambiguities that life, and its transient nature, presents to us. We are proud that we are generally surviving and thriving so well. The vital aspect will be to keep standards of the delivery of online therapy, exceptionally high.
Source a well trained and experienced therapist and look for their accreditations from reputable professional bodies. Ironically, most of the shabby and quick certificate therapy training is online, but all of the best of the training schools in the UK and Internationally have now adapted their classrooms to online portals and their standards are still as excellent as they were before the physical colleges were forced to close.
This is your mental health, so look for and only accept quality!
It will not serve us as a global community to ignore the fact that we are living in a cyber age where all members of our society are in some way intrinsically linked to some form of technology. If clients are fearful of working online but it is their only option, it is going to benefit them enormously to work online with their therapist, who will ensure that they are confident and comfortable with it. This will result in them being braver to use technology in other areas that will help them.
One client Enfys has been working with is in her late seventies. Admittedly, she did struggle with getting the hang of the online sessions so we started by using her landline. Enfys talked her through setting up her email on her old and dated computer and we then used this for video sessions. As a result, she was able to make an online supermarket delivery, which she wouldn’t have even contemplated before. So, for someone who had no one to help her, who lived alone, was fast running out of food and was frankly terrified of the outside and all the health connotations, this was a lifeline.
- pandemic will have lasting effects on how we give and receive help. Now, we’re ready to deliver therapy through whatever lines of communication a person prefers whether that’s in-person in our clinic in Penarth (which will reopen when the government advises us it is safe to do so), online video, Skype, Zoom, telephone, WhatsApp, messenger, text or our own special software. As long as the individual who needs our help is getting the support they need, that’s the only important factor.
HPD, DSFH, DMH, AHD, CNHC, MNCH (Reg), AfSFH, RDM, BA (Hons), PGCE
HPD, DSFH, DMH, AHD, CNHC, MNCH (Reg), AfSFH, NCTJ, MSC-CPA, PGCE
At Alchemy Hypnotherapy