So today I spoke to a therapist.
We talked work, life, relationships. Her name is Leslie, she has brown hair, is around 55-years-old, and you know what? She seems like a really nice lady.
Oh, and Leslie lives in my phone.
This week, Women’s Health gave us the low-down on the latest time saving trend: therapist sessions via a smart phone app.
They road tested the the Talkspace App, and gave overwhelmingly good feedback. So, like any serious journalist, I dived into the line of danger and download the app for myself.
That’s how I met Leslie.
Women’s Health were enamoured with the face-to-phone therapy experience, especially the updates to let you know when to expect a response to your existential crisis:
“I loved that if something was bothering me at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night, I could text my therapist right then and there in our password-protected chat room in the app.
But unlike texting with a friend, her responses weren’t instant. I would anxiously wait for her to reply (‘Hello? I just poured my heart out?’), which usually popped up within 24 hours.
Luckily, the latest app update now has a time stamp that tells you when you can expect a response back. Phew!”
I mean it kind of makes sense, right? We date online, we grocery shop online, we bank online, we even diagnose our own embarrassing rashes online (don’t pretend you’ve never tried). Isn’t this just the natural progression?
Whilst the novelty of speaking with a professional therapist, in real time, was indeed impressive – the lack of human connection was unnerving. Yes, Leslie was a person. Yes, she was typing back to me in a normal conversational manner. But the thought of confessing my innermost feelings and fears to, well, a screen, felt cheap, fake, and weird.
But according to mental-health professionals, this is the way of the future: making therapy free and accessible to all. On their phones. Question: does a group chat then become group therapy? Do you need to conference call a couple therapy session? CAN THEY PASS YOU A VIRTUAL TISSUE?
Watch Mia Freedman talk about her experience with anxiety. Post continues below.
As a millennial, I can appreciate the benefit of therapy. I showcase all the self-obsessed anxiety of most Gen Y’ers, and find great joy in paying someone to tell me it’s normal. Hurray, Leslie, there’s hope for me after all!
Are we going a little too far in our attempts to streamline our lives? Are we really too busy to spare an hour a week to sit in a comfy chair and look Leslie right in her kind, understanding, quirky-glasses-framed eyes?
This question was tackled in a recent piece from The Telegraph about the latest trend in therapy – an intensive half-a-day kind. Journalist Ann Maxted embarked on a mission to find out, ‘Can you really fix your life in five hours?’
Ann signed up for a five-hour power session of ‘intensive therapy’, where you have a one-on-one session with a therapist that spans a full five hours.
In her words, she was “…keen to have my life fixed, and be home in time for dinner.”
Ann was so impressed by the fast and furious unravelling of her psyche that she feels it was worth three months worth of therapy, in one sitting.
Why? Because, according to her speedy session leader Fiona, we don’t need therapy. We just need to talk.
“(It is) Fiona’s belief that often our need isn’t therapy, but to tell our stories,” says Ann, “as in traditional cultures where our stories would be heard, held, and listened to. The result of this is that we reach an understanding of our place in relation to others – and ourselves.”
Totally, Ann. But maybe the real problem here is that we’ve forgotten how to listen?
I don’t know about you, but I have a very clear threshold when it comes to absorbing other people’s woes. Not in a awful way – but constant outpouring of emotion, particularly if it is on the same issue, irritates me. I don’t know what to say to help, and I don’t know why they haven’t taken action to change their situation.
But before you judge me, I am often on the other side of the fence too: during a rough patch last year I found my tearful phone calls often being cut short, or whatever sympathy that was offered being brief and fairly shallow. I struggled to find an empathetic audience.
…As in, one I didn’t have to pay to listen.
Have we started spending so much time with technology, that we’ve forgotten how to be human?
And if that’s the case, are we now turning to technology to give us the comfort and wise words we so desperately need?
The whole point of therapy is to address the issues that are holding us back. You talk, you release, you feel all the things that are too hard to feel day-to-day. You move forward.
Now surely, don’t we need a human hand to hold through all of this?
At the very least, one to pass us the tissues.