What is Phone Therapy?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Phone therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is conducted during a phone conversation instead of during an in-person meeting. Many therapists and counselors offer phone therapy to clients when travel or extenuating circumstances make an in-person meeting inconvenient or impossible. If, for example, a patient has to be out of town for an extended period of time, his or her therapist might conduct a therapy session over the phone

A phone that can be used for phone therapy.
A phone that can be used for phone therapy.

Because one of the major tools in psychotherapy is talk, it is possible to conduct a session via telephone lines. However, this is not an ideal situation. During traditional sessions, a therapist can examine a patient's body language, as aspect which can be quite revealing when it comes to a person's emotional and psychological state. Because phone therapy is not a perfect replacement for traditional therapy, it is generally only used when a doctor and patient are temporarily able to meet in person.

Phone therapy is not a perfect replacement for in-person therapy, which allows a therapist to observe body language.
Phone therapy is not a perfect replacement for in-person therapy, which allows a therapist to observe body language.

In order for phone therapy to be as effective, or at least nearly as effective as in-person sessions, it is important for both doctor and patient to conduct phone sessions while in quiet spaces that are relatively free from distraction. Psychotherapists will often conduct phone therapy sessions from their offices or from a quiet room in their homes. If they are out of town, they will find a similar space to use so that, during the session, they can devote the maximum possible attention to their patients.

It is also important for patients to be in relaxing, quiet environments during phone therapy sessions. Because it is important to be able to speak freely during therapy, it is important for patients to find a place where they feel that they can talk without being overheard. It is also important for patients to be as free from distraction as possible. Trying to engage in phone therapy while driving kids to school, sitting in a restaurant, or running errands, for examples, will not be very effective.

While phone therapy is not the same as in-person therapy sessions and is not a perfect replacement, it can function as an important tool for mental health while psychotherapist and patient are unable to physically meet. Furthermore, phone therapy can be used as a supplement to traditional sessions. Some therapists conduct phone therapy sessions with patients on a regular basis in addition to in-person sessions. This can be helpful for patients who need extra attention but cannot, for one reason or another, make it to a therapy session more than once a week.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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