Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of therapists, beginning with a licensed social worker who was also a pastor at a local church. Each one has walked a specific section of my journey with me, facilitating insight and clarity along the way. Soon after arriving in Orlando, I worked with two different therapists during an exceedingly challenging time of my life. As I ended 2017 in perhaps the best mental and emotional state I had experienced in years, I paradoxically sensed it was a good time to re-enter therapy. I was facing several positive transitions and believed I had the emotional energy to tackle foundational concepts that would help me live life from the best level possible. Though I did not have really specific issues I needed to resolve, I did know I wanted someone who would be able to sit with and explore whatever emerged. Trouble was, all the therapists I knew who worked like that were my friends and so could not serve in this role. My inquires for referrals turned up absolutely nothing that met my criteria.
I remembered one of my interns telling me he had experienced useful sessions online with Victor Yalom, the son of another therapist – Irwin Yalom who I admire in my approach to therapy – especially group work. However, I had a skeptical view of online therapy: I’m relational in my theoretical orientation – how on earth could there be great therapy in the absence of smell, touch, and the extra-sensory dynamics of physical presence I had come to rely on in terms of perceiving what clients were feeling? As time wore on with no emerging options, I decided it couldn’t hurt to pursue the idea, even as a second-best one, and so I contacted Victor. Many steps later, I started working with a therapist he recommended – Anastasia – in January of 2018 and it was definitely the right decision! Here was a humbling example of what I teach my students: Anastasia’s ability to connect with me, to hear what I wasn’t saying, to see the patterns beneath the stories I shared, mattered more than the method we were using to talk to each other. Yes, online therapy has its drawbacks but what mattered was the therapist and his/her ability to build a relationship with the client regardless. Wow!
Over the past 6 months, I have put aside my biases toward online therapy and considered its benefits: to English speakers living in non-English speaking countries, to individuals committed to deeper work but lacking therapy professionals in their part of the world, to my local clients with chronic illness who sometimes struggle to make it in to the office, to individuals like me across the state of FL who are looking for a specific therapeutic fit that they cannot find close by.
Last week, I happened to be visiting Paris and so I had a session in person with Anastasia. I was shocked to find that it did not feel much different from the sessions we’ve been doing online. It was the final push I needed to start offering what I have received: greater accessibility to this business of going deeper. I believe my experience as an online therapy client with a therapist who does it excellently is the best qualifier for providing this service but I am still pursuing specific training and education in this particular modality to ensure that I continue to grow.