What’s it like doing psychotherapy in Second Life? New Scientist has a level-headed article that describes how personal therapeutic interactions are altered by the online world and how this may be a benefit for people with certain types of problems.
In my limited experience of Second Life, I was struck by how many people were offering commercial counselling services, many without apparent qualifications, and I’ve seen been a bit sceptical since.
The NewSci piece is by a professional counsellor and takes a critical look at the concept and its practice, relating both the experience of therapy and where its strengths and weaknesses lie, not least for people who may have social anxiety or other face-to-face difficulties.
The other major concern is the loss of body language. For people used to Second Life, this is not as much of a problem as you might think, according to Dillon. But as a therapist, I glean a great deal from seeing someone become tearful or shift in their seat.
It’s a trade-off, say avatar therapists. What you lose in body language you gain in the eloquent expression of conscious thought – at least for clients who type in their responses – as well as the loss of inhibition that comes with communicating through an avatar.
I have to say, having read so much drivel about ‘cyber therapy’ I was ready to dismiss the article but found it one of the best introductory pieces I’ve yet read that tackles online psychotherapy.
Link to NewSci on Avatar therapy.