Today I would like to answer some of the questions I get asked most as an online therapist.
1. Do you actually think a lot about your clients between the sessions?
There are always moments in everyday life when I think of certain clients. Be it when I’m reading something that reminds me of someone or that I think could help them or because another client (or even a friend) tells me a similar story.
However, I try to switch off between sessions and separate the private from the professional as far as possible. I then adjust myself mentally to the person shortly before the next video call, e.g. by reading through my notes from the last session.
2. How do you actually switch off?
In my online consultations, I am confronted daily with psychological struggles, mental health issues and more or less difficult life stories. Of course, there are always some that touch me personally, make me sad or stir me up. There are things that I also think about after work or that come to my mind every now and then. Switching off is of course particularly important and something that we, as psychotherapists, learn early in our training and actively practice again and again. But of course we don’t always succeed, after all, we are human too.
So how do I typically do to switch off? First of all, I take care of regular offline times and don’t load my work emails automatically on my mobile phone, for example. Between sessions, I try to move around, drink a cup of tea and also like to do a handstand. Such a change of perspective, which also requires concentration and balance, helps immensely. Otherwise, I like to go for walks, do yoga or other nice things. Since I am mostly on the road and travel, a new city, a river or the sea usually awaits me after work. This also makes it much easier to switch off.
3. Do you like some clients more than others?
There are basically two answers: On the one hand, there are clients who I personally like very much or with whom I can imagine that if we had met under different circumstances, we might have become friends. On the other hand, there are clients with whom I particularly enjoy working. They don’t necessarily fall into the first category, but rather are all those people who are really willing to get involved in the counselling process. People who seriously want to change something in their life or in their behaviour and who strive to implement what we discuss in the sessions in everyday life. When I worked in child and adolescent psychiatry, for example, I liked to work with difficult, aggressive or hyperactive young people. It usually took some time to establish a good therapeutic relationship with them, but when the “ice was broken”, the world looked very different. And I got to play a lot of table tennis to break the ice 😉
4. Are there any particular clients you remember?
Yes, many! Sometimes it is single details, sometimes the whole therapeutic process or the person who remains in my memory. Sometimes it’s the particularly tragic stories, sometimes it’s the people with whom it was particularly funny and varied, with whom I went for walks, with whom I laughed a lot or who fought again and again for a good internet connection.
Sometimes it’s the ones I’ve talked to weekly for years, sometimes it’s the ones I’ve only seen once. Sometimes it’s a person who reminds me of someone or who went through something similar to a friend or relative. Sometimes it is those who have undergone an incredible development in the course of therapy or counselling, who have faced their inner demons and emerged strengthened, but sometimes it is also those whom I have not been able to help.
5. Are there things that you don’t like so much about your work as an online therapist?
One of the big disadvantages of working online is the lack of direct exchange with colleagues. Especially because of all the travelling I am a lone fighter in everyday life. In a clinic, you have a whole team around you and also in a practice as a psychotherapist you usually have close personal contact with colleagues. In the meantime, however, I have built up a good network of colleagues online with whom I regularly text, email and video call. These include colleagues from Germany as well as from other countries, which I really enjoy as it has helped me so much to learn more about how online counselling is done in other countries. Sometimes I also miss personal conversations with clients. As much as I appreciate the advantages of video and email consulting, I also know that face-to-face conversations in the same room are a bit different.
But of course, the real answer has to be the paperwork, right?
6. What do you like most about your work as an online therapist?
In a nutshell (so that I won’t bore you all evening): I love that as an online therapist I can combine my dream of a location independent life with my job. That I can travel or work from anywhere (as long as there is wifi).
I’m especially happy that I can reach people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to a therapist. I am fascinated by the great variety of people I deal with every week, clients who live all over the world and whose problems are often so similar.
I also just really love my work. I get to listen to and support people in their dark moments, I get to follow them and guide them on their journey and I get to witness so many amazing moments, from tears to laughter (oh yes, we laugh a lot in counselling!) from incredible brave vulnerability to understanding, change and healing.
On a more personal note, I also enjoy sleeping late, working much less than I did at times when I had a full-time job and my therapy training or later earned my doctorate, and I love taking days off whenever I feel like it (and don’t have a full schedule), especially during the week, when everyone else is working and the tourist spots I want to visit are almost empty. I really love that I get to travel to new places and don’t have to rush to see everything in just a few days, but also get to stay longer in places that feel like home, like this one pictured below, in France.