Why Should I Meet with My Therapist Face-to-Face?

By: Michael Toohey, Psy.D. | July 9, 2021

As therapists begin offering psychotherapeutic services in person, why would we discontinue teletherapy? A vital resource during the pandemic yields to in-person psychotherapy services offered again now that vaccination rates have increased in our area and safety mandates have been lifted. Articles and studies over the past year showed teletherapy and in-person therapy as equitable in terms of effectiveness.

What’s good about meeting in person?

Undeniable benefits accrue with online therapy including the convenience of not having to commute, to find an extra hour in the day, or need childcare. The comfort of staying in your own home has merits too (especially if you can have your pet in your lap!). But some drawbacks exist for online therapy too, such as internet connectivity and technology glitches, Zoom fatigue, and seeing each other on two-dimensional screens that can hide informative body language or miss nuance. Screen exhaustion can occur before the end of the day.

What does meeting in person do?

When we sit down together, we experience and comprehend something that is intimately interconnected and understandable only by experiencing it in person. We engage all of our senses when we meet in person. We have a holistic experience. A colleague refers to this as “energy medicine.”

What’s in the office that’s not at home?

The quiet, private space of the therapist’s office exists as one of the greatest benefits of meeting in person. In-person office meetings provide clients the chance to step out of their everyday lives, to find a peaceful comforting place just for that individual. The therapist’s office provides interruption-free space excluding all kinds of disruptions ranging from deliveries to pets that need to go out, or a child who wants a hug. Achieving privacy at home can prove difficult for many, requiring clients to do teletherapy from their parked cars or even their bathrooms. Online therapy from the home can decrease a sense of privacy such that some clients will whisper or even text what they want to discuss owing to anxiety about being overheard.

What happens in face-to-face therapy?

Therapists are trained to create meaningful connections, which help to promote growth in our clients. There is no way to offer a tissue through a screen, making it impossible or difficult at best for the therapist to empathize with a client online. And, because therapists see only the head and shoulders of a client, they can easily miss subtle body cues such as toe tapping or fidgeting. Since I have started receiving clients in person, I can report that I feel calm, peaceful, and serene during these sessions and sense that clients do too.

Getting to better

Believe it or not, getting out of the house can be a treatment goal, especially for someone suffering depression or anxiety. Seeing another person face to face can provide therapeutic help for the person having faced isolation for the past year and a half. The decision to see a therapist in person, however, depends on each individual’s comfort level and perception of risk. Guidance from the American Psychological Association states that best therapeutic practices include meeting with a client face to face at least once. Each therapist and client, however, should ultimately decide for themselves.

Feel free to raise in-person services with your therapist if you use teletherapy currently. If you’re considering therapy, contact our office and inquire about the types of offered services. A hybrid model (sometimes meeting in person and sometimes online) may even work best for you.



Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

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