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Lisa Ferentz, LCSW-C, DAPA

Is Hybrid Therapy The New Normal?

When Covid first began, it took some convincing to encourage clients to transition to tele-therapy. There were concerns that treatment wouldn’t be as effective, wouldn’t feel the same, and the de-personalized experience of talking to a screen would impact what clients were willing to process and share. At the time, we had no choice, and I was grateful the technology existed so clients could continue their work without interruption. I paid for two weeks’ worth of access to an online platform, naively thinking Covid wouldn’t last longer than that. And here we are, three years later, with a new challenge – getting clients back in the office for in-person therapy!

Although I understand that the most common reason why clients are continuing to choose tele-therapy is the “convenience” factor, I am actually surprised by the ongoing reticence to return to in-person sessions. Tele-therapy has been effective, there’s no question about that. But I continue to maintain that, energetically, online therapy is not the same as a face-to-face connection. I’ve also found it more challenging when I don’t get to see the movement and micro- expressions on full bodies. In addition, it’s been harder to incorporate the expressive modalities that I love using, including sand tray, collaging, and movement. I know they can be translated to an online format, but I still believe they work best when I can more palpably hold safe space for my clients and monitor potential triggering in the office.

"We have been a physically disconnected and isolated society for three years and the mental health fallout has been profound."

It’s a strange conundrum. Clients like doing therapy on their bed with their pet on their lap. I understand the comfort, familiarity, and grounding that can yield. But we have been a physically disconnected and isolated society for three years and the mental health fallout has been profound. Dramatic upticks in anxiety, depression, relapsing, and physical and emotional violence in relationships. I’ve always believed that we are biologically hardwired for connection, and the antidote to the trauma we have all endured for the last three years needs to be reconnecting to people and environments that make us feel seen and safe.

I am resigned to the fact that my practice will continue to be hybrid, but I am also holding out hope that as time goes by, more clients will remember the special and unique experience of in- person therapy sessions and will eventually find their way back to my office.

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