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Phone Therapy: Does It Work?

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Dear Dr. Yael:

As I live out-of-town and unable to come to your office, I am considering undergoing phone therapy. But I have reservations, thinking that the personal touch would be lost and that I might miss out on some of the non-verbal cues.

Can you tell what the pros and cons of phone therapy are?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

As a couple’s therapist, I have had the zechus of helping people in London, Israel, South Africa, Canada, and of course throughout the Unites States. I have also conducted shalom bayis teleconferences throughout the U.S., Canada, and London.

Here is my take on helping people via the telephone:

On the positive side people sometimes feel less inhibited while sharing certain personal issues over the phone as opposed to during face-to-face contact. That being said, it is true that both therapist and client cannot pick up non-verbal cues over the telephone. Additionally, some individuals do not feel as connected if they are not sitting in front of a therapist.

However, I have found that many people feel more comfortable with phone therapy. In fact, in certain situations clients living near my office prefer the therapy sessions by phone when the issues being discussed are of a sensitive nature. For example, a couple was embarrassed to come to my office since, despite their mutual love, their anger was so intense they feared they might become violent with each other. They were more comfortable remaining anonymous.

Therapy is usually more helpful with face-to-face contact. But people who are very embarrassed about their issues will sometimes be more open over the phone. Baruch Hashem, I have generally found much success treating people in this way.

Some people are fortunate to have the option of engaging in therapy with a frum therapist who is able to consult with da’as Torah and is knowledgeable regarding issues of dating, as well as marital and relationship issues – specifically concerning the intimate relationship. Those without this advantage are likely to rely on, and hopefully benefit from, phone therapy.

I have found that marriage therapy done by phone, especially when discussing the intimate relationship, can result in success. So while every situation has its pros and cons, I highly recommend phone therapy for certain situations.

If I can help you further, please feel free to contact me again. Thank you for your letter and I wish you much hatzlachah.

Dear Dr. Yael:

I wish to share my thoughts pertaining to your December 13 column, Bullying Must End Now: A Follow-Up. I feel the pain experienced by so many parents whose sweet children have been victimized by bullying. Our 11-year-old son seems to have become a different person, with fears, anxiety, and depression now ruling his life. It is a horrible situation and we know that if not corrected, his feelings may haunt and debilitate him for the rest of his life. He is currently not in school and seeing a therapist. But this is not enough to improve his life.

Added to his troubles is that his brother was recently diagnosed with stage-4 cancer; unfortunately my 11-year-old’s world is thus in free fall.

Your column spurred me to contact Captain Eilon Even-Esh of Israel in an effort to help our son regain his self-worth and self-confidence, and give him skills and a positive outlet. Baruch Hashem, Captain Eilon and his wife, with warmth and a vibrant compassion, listened to our story and were willing to help. Our son, in the midst of battling his challenges, truly loves the captain for the help he is providing. We already see positive changes in him.

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