Family Therapy Can Work Well Remotely, Particularly When Families Are Separate Physically
At Tribeca Therapy, we do remote family therapy via phone, Skype, FaceTime, and video chat. While there’s no substitution for meeting face-to-face, it is possible for family therapy to work well if meeting remotely is the only option.
In particular, phone family therapy and video chat family therapy can be helpful for adult families (adult children and their parents), families in which parents travel frequently, families with a kid or kids in college, and families who are separated due to medical issues or rehab. The logistics for remote family therapy can admittedly be challenging at times, requiring flexibility and a good sense of humor on everyone’s part. While not having all the parties together in a room can be tricky, creating an opportunity to come together as a family–even remotely–during times of physical separation can build intimacy and closeness.
Do Families Have To Meet Their Therapist In Person Before Transitioning To Phone Or Video Chat Family Therapy?
Sometimes we have the benefit of meeting families in our Downtown therapy office before we rely on technology to connect. In this instance, we’re able to build a relationship offline first. This can make the transition to working remotely a bit easier because it feels like the exception and not the rule. Families already know at least a little about what they can expect from us as therapists–our tone, mannerisms, affect, etc. Similarly, we have some information on how to read their nonverbal cues, as well as the energy between family members.
But, it doesn’t always work out that way. We also see families via phone or video chat who we’ve never met in person. There can also be a benefit to this form of remote family therapy. When we aren’t necessarily focused on building relationships with each other as the primary task, it can free us up to getting right to work. In other words, because we aren’t sitting in the therapy office, there’s less motivation to spend time chit-chatting about the weather, and instead, we get right down to business. This can make the work more efficient and productive.
Like In-Person Family Therapy, Inclusion Is Key For Phone And Video Chat Family Therapy
As with in-person family therapy, inclusion is particularly important. If some members of the family are able to meet in person while others aren’t, thought needs to be given to the logistics of therapy sessions. When only a part of a family is participating remotely, we all need to be sure that the person (or people) not in the room feels fully included and represented in the conversation. This is especially crucial if the person not present is labeled as the “problem” family member. In that case, it’s probably best for everyone to participate remotely. We find it’s best to be explicit about these logistical issues up front so that we can make sure every family member is on the same page.