Keeping close while social distancing with online therapy

For two mental health professionals, COVID-19 has posed problems. But they’ve found solutions.

Dr. Betty Rodriguez Rubio
Dr. Betty Rodriguez Rubio says online therapy is here to stay. Photo submitted by Dr. Betty Rodriguez Rubio.


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for mental health services has increased

Counsellors Valerie St-Gelais and Dr. Betty Rodriguez-Rubio say that social distancing has had both positive and negative effects on therapy.

“Online therapy is absolutely not as good as in-person, pre-pandemic therapy, but it’s definitely better than in-person, in-pandemic therapy,” said Rodriguez-Rubio. “It has made therapy much more accessible for people in the past who could not previously access it. For example, I now have clients in Labrador. They could have never come into my office before.”

St-Gelais, owner of the recently opened New Light Counselling centre in Labrador City, expresses similar sentiments.

“In the counselling field, the move from in-person counselling to online counselling has really shown a lot of benefits. There is no substitute for being in-person with somebody, but the increased access through online platforms has been very beneficial.”

It may be hard for some to imagine that an industry that relies on social connectivity could benefit from social distancing. Still, both counsellors agree that while online therapy is no substitute for in-person therapy, it is a viable alternative in these exceptional circumstances.

The recent surge in the popularity of online counselling does have implications for the future, suggest the counsellors.

“I think online therapy will change the therapy landscape forever,” said Rodriguez-Rubio. “Once the pandemic is over, I can’t wait to go back to counselling in-person, but I think I will always use online therapy

St-gelais concurs.

“For people who are comfortable with online therapy, it may be the catalyst to seek help,” St-Gelais said.

She is also quick to point out that while online therapy may well change the future of therapy itself, it didn’t start during the pandemic.

“Online counselling has always existed, but its benefits are really being brought to light.”

Even before COVID-19, society was beginning to make a shift online. While both of these mental health professionals prefer in-person therapy, they are also both quick to identify the benefits of online therapy as well. Moving forward, it may be a combination of both that allows greater access to mental health services than ever before.

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