A new and unconventional use of video conferencing has moved psychiatric patients from the couch to the computer.
Several online private practices are reporting a growing trend in telepsychiatry — offering therapy sessions in a screen-to-screen, rather than a face-to-face, setting.
“In three years, this will take off like a rocket,” Eric Harris, a lawyer and psychologist who consults with the American Psychological Association Insurance Trust, told The New York Times. “Everyone will have real-time audiovisual availability.”
In an age of Skype, the popular Internet-based teleconferencing service, communications between doctors and patients transcend boundaries and make missed appointments a thing of the past.
The online therapy site Breakthrough.com has signed up 900 psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and coaches in two years.
Some doctors caution against the trend, saying the connection with their patients can be lost, both literally and figuratively.
“You have to prepare vulnerable people for the possibility that just when they are saying something that’s difficult, the screen can go blank,” said DeeAnna Merz Nagel, a psychotherapist licensed in New Jersey and New York. “So I always say, ‘I will never disconnect from you online on purpose.’ You make arrangements ahead of time to call each other if that happens.”