Therapy’s Digital Disconnect

Excerpt from this article:

A generation of therapists who grew up with the internet places a similar importance on the ability to navigate certain online terrain. “It’d be really hard to talk about dating dynamics with a therapist that had never used an app before,” said Chloe Carmichael, a clinical psychologist who runs a private practice in Manhattan. “It would be like trying to discuss a date in a bar or a nightclub with a therapist who had never been to a bar or a nightclub.” Some people who have seen more traditional analysts have complained that the advice they gave was contextless and hollow. “It’s sort of like a square-peg, round-hole thing, where of course their therapist might want to help but they just don’t,” said Melody Wilding, a therapist who specializes in coaching female entrepreneurs and millennials.

And the essential concern is that some of the effects of online life are serious, and many people could benefit from talking about them. “What I hear from a lot of my clients is there’s that disconnection,” Wilding said. “It’s isolating in so much that you’re constantly managing your persona and there’s also a lack of realness. Yes, you might be sharing the highlights of your day when you call the people closest to you, but it’s sort of glossed-over updates. No one really gets into talking about the nuts and bolts of what’s even happening in their life anymore.”

“There is a fundamental anti-technology bias in people who didn’t sort of grow up in the midst of it,” Rutledge said. “This is a really normal response because, physiologically, we are not predisposed to just instantly embrace something that’s new. So a lot of therapists who have been working for a long time who are very skilled at working with people are naturally hesitant about this new environment, because they haven’t spent a lot of time there.”

“Things can really open up once you start looking at your client’s online behaviors,” she said. “As clinicians, how do we engage, or do we engage with our clients online? For what purpose, and how is that supported by a theoretical rationale? All of those questions are not being asked by the people who draft and publish the code of ethics for our profession.”