Emotionally sensitive and intense: would online therapy work for me?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Coach, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)
18th September, 20170 Comments
The age that we are in
In the old days, psychoanalysis was a lengthy process that required people to see their therapists for two to even five sessions per week. They had to meet on a set day and at a fixed time.
That might have worked for Freud, however, in our complex and fast-moving world, such rigid framework no longer works for many people.
Like everything else, psychotherapy has to adapt to changes. In the digital age that we live in, we have lost certain structure and stability, but at the same time, technology gives us new options. Many clients and therapists are now meeting online through applications such as Skype or other secured virtual platforms.
Finding an authentic bond
CBT, Psychodynamic, Humanistic… with all the available therapy approaches, it can get confusing. Numerous studies have been done comparing various forms of psychotherapies, but so far, researchers have not found any modal to be superior to others. What most research CAN agree on, however, is this: It is the bond between the therapist and the clients that matters. The more connected you feel with your therapist, the more effective the work would be.
When you enter a psychologically healing or transformational process, you do not only bring your logical ‘adult self’ into the space but also a younger, more raw version of yourself. Your ‘inner child’ yearns for a real emotional bond and delicate psychological holding. This intuitive part of you notices all the nuances and subtleties and decide whether or not you can trust someone and open up. In this realm of authentic, unspoken connection, your therapist cannot hide behind a facade of professionalism. Ultimately, it is their humanness and genuine acceptance, rather than their qualifications or pretty websites, that matters.
Because of the lack of general awareness, even amongst mental health professionals, of ‘neuro-typical’ traits such as high sensitivity and giftedness, any emotionally intense people have been wrongly pathologised all their lives. You might have been passed from one service to another, from one diagnosis to another. Being mislabelled and misdiagnosed is not only unhelpful, but can erode your self-esteem and sense of agency, which is the last thing you need when you are seeking understanding, healing, and ways to fulfil your potential.
Who speaks your language?
Human beings are tribal creatures. However, being exceptionally emotionally sensitive and intense may mean that you live on the margin of society. It can be challenging to find ‘your people’ if you live in a remote area, but even in big cities such as London and New York, you may still feel like an outsider looking in.
Your tribe exists, even it is harder to find it, and “your people” may be dotted around the world, cutting through time and space. You may have to look beyond your immediate surrounding.
With the internet, we can now find refuge in a virtual communal space through online research, art, music, and writing. After years of searching for answers, you might have found solace in reading other people’s stories as an introvert, an empath, or their struggles with chronic physical and emotional pain. Knowing that there are others like you - even when they are a thousand miles away - is a real blessing.
Just like how you can now find your tribe across the world, online therapy allows you to access a worldwide community of therapists. You are now free to look for a therapist whose work suits your needs as a unique person, or whose words you have a deep resonance with. Rather than being limited geographically, you now have the option to have a therapeutic relationship with someone you can genuinely relate to.
Since it is relatively new, dubious professionals often render online therapy as second best to in-person therapy. Research, however, has found that Skype therapy can be as effective as face-to-face. In fact, there are times when online therapy can bring out a level of depth and progress that an in-person session cannot.
Sometimes, after an hour of traveling to your therapist’s office, settling to the new environment and checking in, you are no longer able to connect with the emotional materials that most need to surface. You may feel frustratingly numb and empty, and unable to connect. This is understandable, and your temporary dissociation may have been there as a protective mechanism.
Many people have found having therapy from home allows them to feel safer. Opening your life story up to someone new is never easy, especially if your early experience had not allowed you to develop a sense of safety and security in the world. Being in the comfort of your own home can enable you to feel more at ease and in control, so you can open up at your readiness.
Connecting in real time
By meeting in your natural environment, you are inviting your therapist directly into your world, in real time.
This can be useful if you struggle with bouts of intense emotional storms, periods of depression, and feel that emotional triggers surround you. Online therapy would give you more opportunities to ‘strike while the iron is hot’ in the space where your day-to-day struggles occur. Meeting this way can help your therapist to get a more realistic and vivid sense of your difficulties.
A different kind on intimacy
Although you cannot see each others’ full bodies, you also get to cut out unnecessary distractions. Your therapist can focus on other subtle details such as your tone of voice and changes in your facial expressions, which can be incredibly useful. In fact, the up-close focus of a Skype call can sometimes feel more intimate than an actual face-to-face session.
Seeing you in your private space allows your therapist to enter into your world more directly, and having someone with you in the here-and-now of your internal and life battles can alleviate the loneliness many sensitive and intense individuals have carried all their lives.
Ultimately, a transformative emotional experience is created not by your therapist reading your body language, but by them having an in-depth understanding of your emotional experience.
Buying back invaluable time and flexibility
Every day, many of us living in the modern times are confronted with a sense of nameless anxiety, restlessness, sense of urgency, and overwhelming responsibilities from inside and out. There is so much that you want to do, so much that you can do, so much that you are placed to do. In fact, most intense and gifted people are resource-rich but time-poor. The time traveling to and from therapy could add unnecessary extra stress (although in other circumstances, they could also be used as useful time for reflections. No time is truly ‘wasted’)
Online therapy gives you the benefit of flexibility - so you can use your time and money in ways that you want to, rather than being limited by the public transport system or traffic!
In a nutshell, online therapy is no longer a second-best solution. With its own merits, it is something that is different to, but not inferior to face-to-face therapy.
About the author
Imi is an award winning mental health professional, accredited clinical psychotherapist (UKCP), art therapist (HCPC, BAAT), certified schema therapist, supervisor and trainer. She specialises in emotional intensity, sensitivity, giftedness, and borderline personality traits. She is the founder of the Eggshell Therapy and Coaching Practice.
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