What is Text Therapy?
Updated: Aug 29
Text Therapy is when professional therapy and counseling is provided using email or a secure messenger service to deliver communication between therapist and client.
Text Therapy Is Not A Different Kind of Therapy
We're not talking about a separate form of therapy, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Psychoanalysis. These are specific methods and techniques for working with clients.
Rather, Text Therapy, like Group Therapy, Couples Therapy, or sessions done via Video Calls, is a unique way in which typical, traditional therapeutic techniques, approaches, tools, and work can be delivered. In fact, most of the currently practiced approaches to therapy can be utilized and offered via text therapy. Cognitive approaches, for example, which focus on a client’s patterns of thinking and how they color their experience, can be practiced in Messaging Therapy.
Using Cognitive Approaches Via Text Therapy: An Example
Therapist typing: “But you're not passive like that anymore. You're a more and more active participant in your life and relationships, and making them more of the way you want them to be. As such, great to hear you talk about you in this relationship: (Quoting the clients report of thoughts, feelings) -"because I do love and care about her" –"It's true change may not happen, if it doesn't I will make a hard decision and exercise the discipline needed to move on" -"So far two months and counting no signs of deception.”
The Text Therapy Process
Text Therapy isn't limited to one clear, set time as with in-office or Video Call sessions. That means the client has to get into the habit of writing. Either regularly, as thoughts, feelings, events, and experiences come up, or both. Many find that challenging, even if the messaging therapist reaches out from time to time, and they switch to Video Calls or in-person work.
Successful messaging clients, however, often get into a rhythm of when they write; more as they need, and less when they don’t. Text Therapy for the client is unlimited in frequency and quantity. Write what you want, when you want. Besides Text Therapy not being face-to-face, and thus lacking facial expressions and tone of voice, it’s also not live – responses are asynchronous. The therapist will sign in 1-2 times per day, read up on what’s been written, and respond to what’s most pressing, what needs a response, or what the therapist feels needs to be addressed. If the responses are shorter, then it’s more likely the therapist will cover all that has been written. It’s less likely all will be addressed when posts are longer. However, a client can ask a therapist to comment on something that wasn’t addressed in the responses.
Building A Therapeutic Relationship
Here we see the therapist and client developing a relationship with each other, discussing the nature of their communication, similar to the way face-to-face work includes a discussion of scheduling and the way in which issues are explored and addressed. Therapy is a relationship between therapist and client, and Text Therapy features that. If a typical, face-to-face session is 50 minutes, and you break that up into 5 days of the week, you get 10 minutes per day. Daily, 5 times per week, Messaging Therapy is the time equivalent of a once-a-week, face-to-face session.
Benefits and Advantages of Text Therapy
Some clients find it hard to pack all they want to say into their weekly session. Not an issue with Text Therapy: write about it as you experience it or think about it: commuting to work, lunch break, etc.
Regular contact also enables the therapist to monitor homework assignments, deliver support closer to when needed, aid in self-reflection closer to when the event or interaction occurred, and generally be more present and supportive throughout the day and week.
Text Therapy also means there is a written record of the sharing, conversation, and work, which clients can go back and review to refresh their memory or take stock of their growth and progress. They can literally read and see how far they’ve come.
Furthermore, many clients benefit greatly from the very experience of putting their thoughts and feelings into words – getting it out and expressed, and not holding it inside. And with the text before them, assessment and self-exploration are greatly enhanced. (Therapist writing): "Well done: (Quoting client's post) 'I was up a lot last night and tossing and turning and thinking about what do I need. How can I work on me in this situation that is so stressful and oppressive at times.'" (Therapist writing) "You need time. You need to get to know yourself all over again. Have time just for you, and find yourself. Explore feelings, thoughts, needs and wants; because you no longer live around people who suppress that. You need to parent yourself, come to know, like and love yourself. It's a process. Take it a day at a time, but always be clear that it’s in there, and you're allowed to do this work, find yourself, and be happy."
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