Recently I watched an Online Event webcast entitled “Online Psychotherapists in the Context of COVID 19 – Critical and Cultural Perspectives”. It was fascinating as I watched three highly experienced practitioners in their respective fields grapple with the changing therapy space brought about due to the global pandemic. The level of practitioner experience ranged from very experienced / expert to some experience to novice online practitioner. For the experienced online practitioner, Covid-19 hadn’t had much of an impact on their work, while for other’s the impact had been immense and immediate, a draughting experience now being embraced and looked upon with curiosity.
One practitioner in particular talked about data and accessibility. While I have always thought of online therapy as being accessible, she challenged this notion. For the Maori and Pacific Islanders’ communities she worked with, phone data she argued, would not be used to contact a therapist or seek support. They would rather use it to contact friends and family. Phone data is precious. This I found illuminating and challenging. Online therapy is hailed as accessible, you can engage with a therapist or supervisor anywhere, anytime about anything. Except you can’t. Covid 19 has highlighted existing structural discrimination; austerity, poverty has provided a devastating toxic mix rendering many people helpless. Covid 19 has exposed injustice and inequality . Data for many people is not available, devices capable of providing access to the internet are not available. Online therapy isn’t as accessible as I and many others’ had thought.
What also caused me to pause for thought, was the title of the webcam – “Online Psychotherapists…”. From what was discussed and from what I could gather, it seemed that some of the practitioners weren’t what I would describe as online psychotherapists but psychotherapists working online as are many psychotherapists right now. Globally, many psychotherapists have had no choice about working at a distance, social distancing has necessitated this shift in working practice.
to be continued….