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Can Online Relationship Counselling Really Work?

by Andrea M. Darcy

In the last few years online therapy has become increasingly popular.

And it’s working. In fact studies show that for some psychological issues like social anxiety, online therapy can even be more effective than in-person counselling.

But what about couples counselling? Is it really possible that online relationship counselling can be as good (or better) than meeting your therapist in person?  

How does online relationship counselling work?

Online therapy uses the same setup as any other video conferencing. You are in the privacy of your home, and you call the counsellor you are working with using online or Facetime (or another secure platform you’ve agreed on). All you need is a good internet connection, a working microphone and computer, and your chair.

With online couples counselling, there will of course be two chairs. The idea is to actually call your counsellor together.

Can you do online couples counselling if you and your partner are actually in different locations, or even countries? Yes. Online counselling, for example, can do ‘group’ video calls. This can be useful if you are in a long-distance relationship, one of you are travelling, or you are in the midst of a separation but want to either have a constructive ending or see if you can salvage the relationship.

But doing online relationship couples counselling with your partner and you together in the same room might be more effective – read on for why. 

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Why couples counselling is a good fit

Therapy is at heart a relationship. The trust that develops between you and your therapist has been found to directly affect the results you get from therapy.

Can this bond of trust form over online? Consider your video chats with family, friends, or partners. Most people say they do feel connected, but that it’s not the same closeness as in-person.

So it’s true that with one-to-one online therapy it can take longer to build a strong connection with the therapist.

But couples therapy is a different situation. The main relationship in the room is no longer between you and your therapist. It’s between you and your partner, with the therapist there to be a sort of convener, helping you communicate constructively. With online couples counselling, you are still usually in the same room with your partner. So there is hypothetically as much of a chance for you and your partner to connect and grow together with online therapy as there is with in-person therapy.  

The benefits of online couples therapy

There are many upsides to consider. These include:

1. You save money.

Time is money, and doing therapy from home means you don’t have to travel to and fro from your therapist’s office. And if you have children, assuming they are old enough to play quietly in an adjoining room, it can make a babysitter no longer necessary. This is also the case if you have an elderly parent at home who needs care.

2. You are more likely to both make the appointment.

In-person couples therapy represents two times more chances of something coming up to stop you making a session. Online therapy still works if the babysitter cancels, the car breaks down, the train is cancelled, or even if one of you is poorly. A cold or a bit of flu matters less if you don’t have to leave the house.

3. It means attending each session is not used like a weapon between you.

When a couple is in conflict, therapy sessions can become part of the bargaining. “You better not upset me today or I won’t go to the session tomorrow”. When the sessions are in your own home, these sorts of games lose their power. You are both at home, you might as well do the session.

4. If one partner travels for work, you can still attend therapy.

Many therapists are fine with occasionally working with one partner on a third line (or always, if you live in different countries).

5. You might find you are more open and communicative over online.

Some people find it’s easier to be open in their own home. If, for example, one partner is stressed by transport, is introverted, or has social anxiety, online therapy means half of each session is not wasted dealing with him or her relaxing.

When online relationship  counselling might not be right

In some cases, a couple really needs time together in person when working things out. This might be the case if one of you hides from the other with workaholism, and therapy becomes the only real time you are really together. This might also be true for couples who are in a trial separation and living separately.

Of course some therapists are happy to do a blend of therapy formats, with some sessions in person and others online.

Finally, online couples counselling isn’t suitable with just any therapist. It presents its own challenges so requires a couples therapist who knows what he or she is doing.

A good online couples therapist needs to be confident at communicating via video and at reading body language on screen, and able to keep you both engaging with each other without being in the room. Limited benefits will come of therapy together if, for example, you are sitting side-by-side but both just staring at the screen all the time.

Harley Therapy connects you with experienced couples therapists online who can help you wherever you may be (and in-person couples counsellors, too, if that’s what you’ve decided works best for you). 

Still have a question about relationship counselling? Or want to share your personal experience of it? Post in our public comment box below. 

Andrea BlundellAndrea M. Darcy quit a successful career as a screenwriter to follow her true love, self development, and now is a popular mental health writer who has penned thousands of articles. Find her on Instagram for great life tips @am_darcy

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Blog Topics: Relationships, Types of Therapy

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