Pros and Cons of Being an Online Therapist

teletherapist at work online

Opportunities in therapy are growing. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 41,900 new SLPs will be needed by 2026, which is a growth projection of 27 percent. This growth is faster than the average for all occupations!

Much of the work will be available in an online format know as teletherapy, but as with any work setting, there are pros and cons to telepractice. Here are a few to consider as you decide if being a teletherapist is right for you.

Working from home

Who doesn’t love the idea of working from home? We heard from some people who actually do work from home. Here’s what they say:

Pros:

  • No commute or fighting traffic. What more is there to say about that?
  • Starting laundry when you have a break. I don’t know about you, but if I can get just one extra load into the washer, that’s life changing. In general, getting to sneak in a little chore here and there when you have a few minutes is definitely a pro. 
  • More time with family. Without the extra time spent commuting, being stuck in traffic, and doing laundry after work, you may actually have some extra time to spend with your family. Trade a little chore time for a little play time with the kiddos.

Cons:

  • Isolation. If you’re someone who thrives on the social interaction that comes with being in a traditional workplace, this can be challenging. You still get plenty of interaction online, but it’s not the same. You may need to find extra outlets if you really crave the in-person interaction. 
  • Distraction. Working from home means that all the distractions of home are there, too. Remember that laundry we mentioned earlier? Yeah, that’s there. All. The. Time. You’ll need to be disciplined in how you spend your time and make sure that you actually work during the time you are scheduled to work. 
  • No distinction between work and home. When your office is in your home, it can be tough to put away work and have downtime. You need to find ways to be intentional about putting work aside and being truly present during your non-work times.

Making a connection with students

It’s probably safe to say that we all desire to build a strong connection with the students and families that we serve. But is it possible to do that through a computer? Absolutely!

Pros:

  • Students are a natural with technology. Students often get excited when they get to engage with a screen for their therapy time. Can that be right? Is engagement with a screen a real thing? When there’s a caring, knowledgeable adult on the other end, it’s a very real thing. 
  • You can do most everything you can in person. With video conferencing, screen sharing, sharing keyboard and mouse controls, there is very little you can’t do online. It may take a little creativity and effort, but totally possible.
  • It’s easier to set boundaries when you need to. Boundaries are healthy, but they aren’t always easy to set and enforce. Having a physical distance between you and the student can make this sometimes difficult process a bit easier.

Cons:

  • Technology challenges. The internet goes down. Computers crash. It’s a reality, but being prepared and flexible when things don’t go as planned is the key. Let’s face it, if you’ve worked as a therapist for any length of time, you’ve likely already developed the ability to be prepared and flexible no matter what your setting is. 
  • You need to be at least a little tech savvy. You don’t necessarily need to know as much about technology as the students you’re working with, but you do need to be comfortable with it, willing to learn (a LOT) as things change and advance, and be able to help troubleshoot at a distance when needed.
  • You can’t provide physical cues. A lot of potential online therapists worry that the inability to physically guide and cue a student is a huge barrier. That’s a legitimate limitation. That’s also why you should have a good facilitator on the student’s side to help when physical guidance, redirection, or cueing are needed.

Day-to-day logistics

You’ve made it through grad school and licensing and figuring out how to fit 80 students into a 40 student time frame. You got this!

Pros:

  • Independence. If you enjoy working independently, teletherapy may be a great fit. Working online allows you more autonomy to establish your own routines and decide what workflow and general processes work best for you. There are still rules and laws you must follow, but how you go about your daily activities is much more individual to your needs and preferences. 
  • Flexibility. There is a definite flexibility to being an online therapist. You can’t just show up online whenever you want, but there is usually the opportunity to create your own schedule that works for your actual life. 
  • Time zones. Time zones give you an expanded time frame that you can work. If you’re on the West Coast and an early riser, you may be able to start seeing East Coast students at 5 AM your time. Live on the East Coast and want to work later with schools on the West Coast? Yep, you can do that too. 

Cons:

  • Time zones. With the awesome flexibility offered by being able to work in multiple time zones, there’s also a logistical challenge. Throw in Daylight Saving Time and oh, my! Online calendars and planners can be your new bestie. 
  • School calendars. If you enjoy working in schools because it lets your work schedule align with your kid’s school schedule, we’re with ya! For the most part they match up pretty well. But you need to consider that not all schools have the same days off. Thanksgiving, Winter Break, and Spring Break can vary greatly depending on what part of the country you’re working in. You’ll need to be able to work around your online school’s schedule and be available when they are in session regardless of when your local schools may be on break. 
  • Licensing. The rules around licensing for teletherapy are pretty simple, and they’re not. The simple? You usually have to be licensed in both the state you are sitting AND the state where the student is physically present. The not-so-simple? Getting all those licenses if you work in multiple states. And what if you travel out of state? And what if your student travels out of state? It can get mind blowing. The key is being organized and taking it one license, one out-of-state trip, one issue at a time. 

These are just a few of the areas to consider when deciding if being an online therapist is right for you. There are some unique challenges that come with being a teletherapist. Finding the solutions to those challenges is part of the fun!

Ready to take the challenge?

E-Therapy works with hundreds of therapists and the need for more is growing. If you are interested in joining our team to provide live face-to-face online Speech-Language, Occupational, and Physical Therapy or Counseling/Social Work and Assessments/Diagnostics, then sign up as a therapist here.

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