There is no such thing as bad publicity, right?  (I did a little research into that phrase and apparently it is often associated with Phineas T. Barnum, the 19th century American circus owner… interesting source… has anyone read “Water for Elephants)?

I like the 100 year old version published in the Atlanta Constitution that states”All publicity is good if it is intelligent”.”  Indeed, I agree with the latter phrase: publicity is good ONLY if it is intelligent, and to be honest, I question whether this news broadcast sounds very intelligent at all.  (No offense to Dr. Rushkin, in fact, I think her work is great and I would love to have lunch with her and discuss our mutual interests, but I have some comments on a recent broadcast on text therapy).

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Dr. Karen Ruskin, labeled as a “psychotherapist” but after doing a little research, I found out that she holds a PsyD AND is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (so she is WELL qualified to discuss this topic- this is not an attack piece at all!), discusses how times have changed, and indeed they have! How many times a day do you pick up the phone to call someone to talk vs. how many times a day do you text someone to talk? Chances are if you have a Smartphone, you text way more than call. In fact, a 2012 Time Article (found here) states that even amongst people age 65+, texting still wins over calling (but not by much!).

I’ll paraphrase her and state while she said that it is of “therapeutic value” to text with your therapist, it is “NOT, I REPEAT, ABSOLUTELY NOT INSTEAD OF THERAPY”.  So here is where I feel like this publicity is bad publicity: this statement implies that text therapy  is considered, NOT therapy, when depending on the content of the conversation, it could, in fact, BE therapy!

I also think she does a poor job at portraying text therapy (and maybe it’s because I have watched the clip a million times, but it really does seem kind of condescending and mocking of the online distance therapy field… but I am not taking it personally).   She also speaks so authoritatively I worry that folks watching this broadcast would actually think that what she is talking about is actually WHAT text therapy IS (and as an online sex therapist that uses text therapy, her portrayal is not AT ALL how I practice text therapy).

Text therapy isn’t about reading something and having it feel “energizing”.  The text therapy I do is real therapy, just instead of TALKING we write down our conversation.  It is a slower pace, with immense therapeutic value.  How many times have you written something down, thought about it, and rewritten it to have it actually mean what you want it to mean? Imagine if you could do that in therapy?  Imagine if you had the opportunity to write, and rewrite your thoughts, feelings, impressions, opinions, etc. before presenting them to another person (like a therapist)?  Can you see how that could be useful in therapy?

In the therapeutic community, we often use written assignments and journalling as therapeutic interventions because we believe that accessing the part of the brain responsible for written language offers an additional opportunity for healing and growth so it would make sense to utilize that in a therapeutic realm as well.  (There is so much research and literature on this topic!) So if we believe that writing is a valuable form of therapeutic communication, why wouldn’t we do therapy in writing???

Dr. Ruskin also mentions the relationship between a therapist and a client, and insinuates that over text the relationship is somehow not as connected, that y0u can’t clarify misunderstandings, and you can’t see body language and facial expressions.  Now I agree with her, in text, you do “lose” (I would use a different term) body language, facial expressions, and other physical factors that you have may have in a traditional in person practice, however, you gain some things you don’t get in the verbal talk therapy realm AND to be completely honest, text therapy is closer to the real life communication that most people are having in their regular lives anyway.  Why wouldn’t we deliver therapy in text format if most of our conversations with people close to us are through text-based modes of communication (Facebook, Twitter, Texting, Email, Etc.)? It would be silly to only offer therapy in one dimension (verbal) when so much communication is going on in other dimensions!

Dr. Rushkin states “so as times have changed with regards to what we even define as a relationship” and in response I want to state that it is a natural evolution of the field that times would have changed in what we define as a therapeutic relationship.  Makes sense? (If it doesn’t, let me know as I want to make sure my thoughts and ideas are clearly being expressed in written form [see how easy it is to clear up a misunderstanding through text?])

I also feel like Dr. Rushkin and the reporter misrepresent text therapy as if it is just this when-I-feel-like-it, on-demand therapy, when in fact, that is not how I do text therapy AT ALL.  My text sessions have regular scheduled times, and operate like other traditional sessions.  I am very clear with my clients about appropriate communication boundaries and my clients respect that their therapeutic time is their therapeutic time and if they have something to say to me in between sessions they can either send me an email, call me, or schedule an additional appointment.  Done.  I am not sure what type of text therapy they are referencing, but that is not how I do my text therapy at all!

In answer to Dr. Rushkin’s belief that text therapy is better than if someone did nothing, I feel like that minimizes the value of this modality.  This isn’t one step above suffering, this is a TRUE and AUTHENTIC therapeutic modality, with its own interventions, position of the therapist, belief of problem, etc.  Once I put away my feelings about how this statement is a little offensive, I bring myself back to the point that text therapy makes therapy accessible to those who may not have had access to therapy without it.

Text therapy might not be for everyone however, just as psychoanalysis or other types of therapy aren’t for everyone either.  But text therapy for a chronic stutterer seems like a very good option.  Text therapy for someone who feels too embarrassed to talk about their sexual issues to another person but feels comfortable communicating over text also seems like a good fit.  Text therapy for someone who lives in a very rural area that has limited internet access but just enough to be able to communicate via online text- also a win.  The list goes on and on.  And text therapy for someone who just feels more comfortable texting than talking, that sounds just fine too.

Text therapy isn’t something that is going to dilute modern therapy, it’s something that can accentuate it!  We don’t have to fear it replacing “traditional” therapy, but rather it’s the new kid on the block.  We should welcome text therapy to the neighborhood!