People in need, need people

Remote therapy has its limitations >  Face-to-face therapies have ended across Britain. During COVID-19 lockdown those seeking help have to resort to electronic communications and video links.

This inability to meet therapists has shone the spotlight on video therapy chats, counselling apps, text-based counselling and, of course, agencies like Tonic which offer therapy-by-phone.

It is a boom time for talking therapies and telepsychology. Even the NHS has become heavily reliant on telemedicine during the pandemic.

Coronavirus remote therapies

But telehealth and on-line counselling services have their limitations. For example, the inability to meet face-to-face with counsellors is a body blow during a period when domestic violence is increasing dramatically – literally!

Anti-domestic violence campaigners say there is no substitute for the court-ordered group therapy, where abusers are confronted by peers. The forums are where emotions often overflow, tears are shed and anger vented within a controlled environment. And yet, these two-hour meetings, which are normally attended by between six and 20 men over 26 weeks, have been shut down.

Specialist counsellors are worried.  There are men in the process of thinking about using family violence, who have already been confronted within these groups about their attitude towards their families.  They have been cut off from face-to-face help and the result could be devastating.

Perfect storm for domestic violence

The dilemma represents a perfect storm for the safety of women.

Criminogenic issues that spark domestic violence such as depression, financial stress and excessive drinking are inevitable in the current lockdown. Problems fester and violence ensues. Add into the mental turmoil the loss of job and income and homes become like pressure cookers.

In such circumstances and with domestic violence reaching record levels, remote therapies are little better than sticking plasters,” says a Tonic therapist.

Even if it is possible to make contact via zoom, social media, the phone and so on, it is difficult to gauge what is happening in the background.

“Is the caller on drugs or drinking heavily? What is the threat level? There is simply no way of knowing if people in the household are safe“.

Thus remote therapy’s strength is also its weakness — without nonverbal cues, communications between the participants have a greater potential for being misunderstood. In addition, online services have difficulty screening faraway clients, which could lead to situations in which a therapist makes things worse.

The truth is therapy-by-phone will always be second best to face-to-face therapy and is totally unsuitable for clients requiring more in-depth and concentrated help.

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