Questions About Therapy:
Guide to Online Therapy
Let’s meet at your place: Online Zoom Therapy & Online Coaching
Growing Self’s founder, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, is a pioneer in online therapy, online life coaching, and online marriage counseling. Since starting her Denver therapy practice in 2009, Dr. Bobby has been working with clients all over the world through video conferencing and now specializes in online video-based Zoom counseling and coaching.
Why Is Online Counseling and Coaching Becoming So Popular?
The short answer is obvious: Online therapy is easy! However, there are many important and perhaps less obvious reasons that online counseling and coaching has become preferable for many clients. Well before Covid-19 made online meetings our new normal, I was practicing online therapy and online life coaching — often even with clients who lived down the street from my Denver therapy office!
Why? Why would my clients rather meet with me for therapy online, rather than drive half a mile to my office? There are actually quite a few reasons (that go above and beyond the time factor, or the mild hassle of having to transport themselves to my office and back.) While ease and accessibility are two of the top reasons that online coaching and counseling works, they are not the only reasons – and some of the other reasons may surprise you!
Online Zoom Therapy Can Facilitate Emotional Intimacy
This one comes as a surprise to many people, but I’ve found it to be true time and time again: Online Zoom therapy and Zoom counseling calls often facilitate greater emotional intimacy for clients and therapists than in-person sessions.
I think this increased emotional intimacy from online therapy comes from the comfort that people enjoy while being in their own homes. No matter how nice and cozy therapists make their offices, it’s hard to match the feeling of security that people get from being in their own safe, familiar spaces.
The feeling of security people get from being home during their online sessions combines nicely with the ease and accessibility. When people have to take time out of their busy days to attend in-person therapy sessions, they enter the room and need at least a few minutes to acclimate to the environment, calm down, and get comfortable. This transition period doesn’t occur when people are already safe and comfortable at home.
I’ve had some clients who are really shocked by the difference (in a positive way). For example, in the past, I’ve had clients be very reluctant to meet with me online. They’d say, “But I would be talking to my computer! It would be so cold and impersonal!” So, of course, we just continued to meet in person. But then, circumstances would arise that would nudge them in the direction of trying it out: They’d have to go out of town or be particularly crunched for time one day, so they’d ask for an online therapy session… and never went back.
They feared it would be cold and impersonal, but it was actually the opposite. They weren’t talking to their laptop — they were meeting with me! But they were more relaxed, and often had more time and mental bandwidth to dive deeply into their thoughts and feelings with me, and then spend time with themselves after our sessions to journal, take a walk, or reflect. Our work felt even more meaningful to them, and they achieved more personal growth, more quickly. Online therapy sessions by Zoom really worked for them.
The Accessibility of Online Zoom Therapy is Unbeatable
Everything was so much harder before we could do online video calls! Think about it. How many people are actually lucky enough to live close to their ideal therapist? Many people live in urban areas with more options for therapy, life coaching, and counseling — but so many people live in more rural areas, too. And even the people in urban areas only have access to the therapists in their area. Online video calls have made it possible for any client with a wifi connection – anywhere in the world – to connect with any therapist with a wifi connection – anywhere else in the world. We really need to take a moment to appreciate this.
The ability that people now have to find therapists online also cuts down the time it takes to get the process started. Imagine if you were to have access only to a few therapists in your immediate vicinity, but all were fully booked for weeks. You’d have to first wait until you could even get the chance to see one. Then, what if you met with the first available therapist and found that it wasn’t a good fit? You’d have to then wait again for the next available therapist!
One caveat to all this is that, if you’re seeking therapy (rather than coaching) you do need to find a practitioner who is licensed to provide therapy in your state or country of residence. However, if you’re living in a small mountain town in Colorado (for example) you now have access to every therapist in the state — not just the three therapists in town who you might awkwardly bump into at the grocery store, the pool, or at a PTA meeting.
Now, you can shop around and sometimes even get a first free consultation with a therapist fairly immediately. If the therapist is free, taking on new clients, and you catch them at the right time, it’s possible to start right away! This type of thing was totally impossible before online therapy was a thing.
Furthermore, in the past, attending couples counseling or relationship coaching was very difficult for long-distance couples. We had quite a few long distance couples that we’d see for couples therapy in Denver, but one partner would have to literally fly into town to make it happen. While we could certainly have intensive sessions, it was not ideal to meet with me sporadically. (Couples counseling really, really benefits from regular meetings.) More about online couples therapy here, if you’re interested.
Online Therapy Saves Time!
These days, most of our online clients at Growing Self choose to meet with us through secure video rather than meeting for therapy or coaching in person because it’s simply a much more efficient use of their time. Furthermore, we can meet with you no matter where in the world you are.
Even in the middle of a busy day, you can simply close your office door, have a session, and then get back to business. Furthermore many of our professional clients who travel frequently for business meet for counseling or coaching from hotel rooms around the world.
And many parents with young children schedule their appointments with us during nap times, or meet for marriage counseling in the evening after the children are in bed. Meeting online for counseling or life coaching is just… easy.Growing Self Counseling and Coaching has in person offices in the Denver area (Cherry Creek, Broomfield, DTC) as well as satellite offices in Fort Collins, CO, San Francisco, CA and even Bentonville, Arkansas.
However, even many of our local, in-person clients choose to meet with us for online therapy and marriage counseling because it’s simply easier and more convenient for them than driving across town. They have their call in the privacy of their own home, and then have time and space to reflect on their session.
Are there limitations of online Zoom therapy?
Yes, there are limitations to online Zoom therapy. Online therapy is becoming increasingly common. Some states make provisions for licensed professionals in other states to work with their residents. Most insurance companies will cover “telehealth” sessions. However, there are some limitations to doing marriage counseling or therapy online. For example, psychotherapy is behavioral healthcare. If you are seeking online psychotherapy for the treatment of a mental health condition it is important that you connect with a therapist who is licensed in your state of residence.
There are some specific situations when online therapy may not be as helpful to you as in-person therapy.
- Trauma treatment benefits from physical proximity and is often best conducted in person, particularly if somatic or physical techniques are helpful (such as EMDR).
- Substance use disorders are often better handled in-person.
- More serious mental health issues require attention from local therapists. This is especially the case when…
- … medication evaluations and medication management is required. For example, with bipolar disorder and major depression disorder.
- Domestic violence situations – or any situations where there are relationships involved that are characterized by extreme anger or emotional reactivity – should be handled in therapists’ offices rather than online, especially because of privacy and safety issues – and potential monitoring.
Outside of specific situations like these, so many people can be helped enormously by online therapy, online coaching, and online marriage Zoom counseling. Working online is productive, it’s easy, it’s convenient, and best of all — we can meet with you no matter where in the world you are.
Your Guide to Online Therapy, Online Life Coaching, and Online Marriage Counseling
Getting Started With Online Therapy or Online Coaching
You may have noticed that I’ve been mentioning “Zoom” a lot. If you’re not already aware, Zoom is a reliable video conferencing app. While there are many other online video platforms out there, our practice uses Zoom for a number of reasons.
First of all, it’s really secure. Our practice has a special type of Zoom platform that is HIPAA compliant, meaning that it has encryption and security features that make it confidential and private. We also have additional practices in place (virtual waiting rooms, private links, etc) that make it easy and private for you to connect with your Growing Self therapist or coach.
Zoom is also really easy to use. It’s free, and you can easily access your online therapy or online coaching sessions from any of your devices with minimal hassle. You don’t have to sign into a special portal to connect with us — you just tap your therapist’s link and they’re there, like magic.
Using Zoom for therapy and relationship coaching also makes it very easy for long-distance couples (or any busy couple, for that matter) to have couples counseling or relationship coaching by three-way online video. You do not have to be sitting on the same couch with your partner to do online couples therapy with us! Each of you can just tap your therapist’s link and you’ll be joined in a three-way video call.
If you would like to take advantage of the convenience of meeting with your counselor or coach through video conferencing online, we can meet with you through our secure, HIPAA-compliant Zoom service. You can request a first, free consultation meeting with one of us to check it out, if you’d like.
Here is a quick (literally one minute) video tutorial that shows you how to set up Zoom on your computer, so that your audio and video settings are enabled correctly:
If you schedule a free consultation session to get started in online therapy or online coaching with us, the very next thing that will happen is that you’ll get an email confirmation that contains (among other things) a link to your expert’s private Zoom meeting room.
At the time of your appointment, simply click on that link and you’ll be connected with your expert face-to-face. If you’d prefer to have your first consultation meeting by phone, that’s no problem at all. You are welcome to call us at the time of your meeting and ask to be connected to your expert. If you need to get in touch prior to that first meeting, you can respond to your appointment confirmation email or get in touch with our client services team for support.
Getting Ready for Online Zoom Therapy
As I explained earlier, intimacy is not lost in Zoom counseling – in fact, we often find that emotional intimacy is greater over video call than in person. For this to happen, though, therapists and clients need to be able to communicate just as easily and clearly over their video calls as they could in the office. This means that you’ll need technology on your side!
Please don’t be intimidated or put off in any way by thinking that it’s too hard or expensive to set up Zoom therapy; it’s not! In fact, you almost certainly already have everything you need. Additionally, there’s almost no learning curve for joining Zoom calls. Any difficulty you find in getting setup for your first call will be absolutely tiny while the time and effort it will save you compared to getting in and out of a therapist’s office is huge.
And, of course, I’m here to ease the process! To that end, let’s talk about what you’ll need for Zoom therapy or Zoom counseling.
For therapeutic purposes, video calls are just way, way better than voice calls. In fact, I’d advise against doing sessions over voice call, alone. Personally, unless I know a client very well and there is a good reason to meet by phone rather than video (usually because someone’s internet is out and there is no other way to connect at the time of our appointment) I don’t even try to conduct therapy or coaching by phone.
This is true for individuals, and even more so for couples. I don’t attempt to work with couples by phone at all. If we can’t connect in person or by video, we simply reschedule the appointment. Why? I don’t want to waste anyone’s time and money. Our sessions need to be productive and helpful, and if I am not able to see what’s happening — particularly with couples — I don’t feel like I can do my best work. There are so many subtle communication signals happening in body language and facial expression that get lost when people can’t see each other.
So, in order to do online Zoom therapy or Zoom counseling, you will need a built-in or external webcam with a microphone. Most computers and smartphones made within the last decade or so already have a video camera and microphone built right into them. In this case, Zoom will work automatically and you don’t have to do anything additional. Easy, right?
If you don’t have a webcam built into your computer, there are plenty of different and affordable options you could purchase. A simple webcam is very inexpensive and plugs into your computer via the USB cable. As soon as you plug it in, your computer will recognize the camera. You will be walked through the software instructions by the disk that comes with the camera.
Internet Speed for Online Therapy
If there’s one villain of online Zoom therapy, it’s lag. Lag, of course, occurs when the internet connection of either party in a video call is too slow, causing the video and/or voice connection to freeze or stutter. Communication gets way harder when lag is present, so let’s avoid that!
To beat the villain of lag, you will need the fastest internet connection possible. Zoom generally works well over wifi. If you are using a mobile hotspot or your cell phone’s data plan to connect to the internet, be sure that you are on a 4G network if possible. If the internet service at your home or office is on the slow side, you might get better results if you bypass wifi and connect your computer to the internet using an ethernet cable or private network.
If you’re not sure about the speed of your internet connection, there are some great online resources available that can help you check. Personally, I’ve found speedtest.net to be very helpful for letting me know when my connection is good or not so good. Just visit the site, click Go, and wait for the site to test your connection!
But how fast of a connection do you need for Zoom?
You’ll find some different numbers depending on which sources you look at, but if your download and upload speeds are both above 3 Mbps, you should be okay. Please note that this figure is conservative. Some sites say that you’ll be able to use Zoom even with connections slower than 1 Mbps – and maybe you can – but try and find a better connection, if possible.
Personally, I am apprehensive about attempting Zoom calls when the upload speed is in the single digits. Lagging and freezing is not fun during deep conversations. If you have an online therapy or online coaching appointment scheduled, and you don’t have access to good-enough internet or cell service, it might be best to reschedule your session for another time.
Online Zoom Therapy or Coaching Using Your Phone
Doing online Zoom therapy on your phone is as easy as taking or making any other call. You can download the Zoom app on your phone, or you can also do a web-based call that does not require you to download the app first.
When you schedule your first consultation session we’ll send you a confirmation that contains the link to your expert’s Zoom counseling meeting room. Simply tap on that link at the time of your call and you’ll be connected face to face with them. From then on it will be just like any other coaching or therapy appointment.
While having your online therapy or coaching appointments on your phone can be convenient, sometimes the stability of the call is not as good as it is from your laptop or tablet. Also, do be sure that when you’re meeting with your therapist or coach for your sessions, you’re in a place where you’re not distracted, and where you have privacy.
3 Way Therapy for Online Marriage Counseling and Long-Distance Couples
Some couples interested in marriage counseling or relationship coaching are in long-distance relationships and need to have 3 way therapy online couples counseling meetings in order to make sessions work.
In the same way that many people are surprised by the level of emotional intimacy that can be achieved in 1-on-1 online Zoom therapy, 3 way therapy by video call also often exceeds peoples’ expectations. It’s convenient, accessible, easy, and makes everyone feel safe.
When you choose to do 3 way therapy with Growing Self, the person who makes the first couples counseling consultation appointment with us will get an automatic email confirmation sent to them that contains the link to the secure, HIPAA compliant Zoom meeting room of the relationship expert you scheduled with.
Simply forward that confirmation email to your partner so that you both have it. Then, at the time of your appointment, you can both tap that link and be connected in a 3 way therapy call.
Online Therapy Through Zoom
Generally speaking, it is not a great idea to meet for therapy online through Skype, WhatsApp or other commercially available online meeting platforms. The reason being is that, although these systems are all likely secure, they are not HIPAA compliant online video platforms.
HIPAA compliant online video meeting platforms, including the Zoom system utilized by Growing Self, is appropriate for telehealth because it offers additional layers of security. That way you can be assured that your online therapy or online coaching sessions are private and confidential.
If you are living in a location that does not allow certain online video conferencing applications please let our office know and we can explore alternatives with you.
- HIPAA compliant zoom security features: worth researching
- Waiting room feature
- Unique link for consultation meetings
We’re Here to Help You Meet Online For Coaching or Counseling
Many people feel intimidated at the thought of using video conferencing if they haven’t done it before. Nowadays, it really is just as easy as taking a phone call. Do it one time and you’ll be a pro. But if you’d like a little extra support to get things set up properly, do not hesitate to contact your therapist. He or she can talk you through the process, step-by-step. We want you to have a good experience, and are here to help you.
I hope that this discussion of online therapy gave you insight into how it works, why it works, when it doesn’t, and whether it’s right for you.
Wishing you all the best in your journey of growth,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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Our approach to online therapy.
The therapists and life coaches of Growing Self have specialized education and training and years of experience in helping people achieve their personal and professional goals. We use only evidence based strategies that have been proven by research to help you get clarity and direction, have better relationships, feel happier, and design your ideal life.
This website is devoted to your wellbeing, and offers loads of free information and actionable advice that you can start using today to create positive change in your life. Browse around to meet our experts, get free advice on our blog, listen to a podcast, or take our “How Healthy is Your Relationship” quiz. If you’d like to see what coaching is like, and get some targeted advice, you can try a one-time coaching solution session.
Or, if the time is right, you can schedule a free consultation with any of us to talk about your situation — and, most importantly — your hopes for your future.
Ready to start online therapy?
Creating real and lasting change in yourself, your relationship or your career is not an event. It’s a growth process that happens over time when you partner with an effective coach or counselor who can help you gain self awareness, learn new skills, and take action to get better results.
The first step in this life-changing journey is to schedule a first meeting. You can meet in-person or online with the expert of your choice to discuss your hopes and goals, and make sure it’s a good fit before moving forward.