As telehealth becomes a more established practice for both clinicians and their clients, the convenience of it opens many doors to both the busy and the disabled. However, as we shift more attention to telehealth practice and develop that as an option for clients, it's important to understand the ways that cyber communication can affect both the relationship and the individual. While telehealth appointments offer many advantages to clients and clinicians, understanding the limitations of them, and the nuance of how they affect bonding and trust is key to developing trust and the ability to help your clients. People act differently, depending on their setting, and that is especially true when placed against the semi-anonymity of the internet.
Hyper Personal Effect Theory
Developed by Joseph Walther in 1996, hyper personal effect theory was a theory that came from studying the effects of commuters in mediated conversation, and it a theory that should be kept in mind when dealing with clients via text based exchanges. Walther suggests that visual and verbal cues are key components in developing relationships, and the lack of them in cyber communications can lead to deeper and intimate connections quicker than in other situations. Cyber communications can be a beneficial way of communicating with clients, but the nature of text based communication without the benefit of verbal or visual components is that there is more time to craft an image, tailor it to the perceived wants and desires of the other party, and present that image in the best possible light. Without tonal inflection to read and body language to assess, the only thing to go on is the words on a screen. It is important to keep hyper personal effect theory in mind when communicating with clients, but also when discussing their own relationships--more and more frequently, people are finding friendship and romantic relationships in online spaces, and the immediacy of the relationships found there can become an emotional problem--for clients who spend the majority of their social interactions in online spaces, understanding hyper personal effect theory and what bearing it might have on those developing relationships is an essential piece of their care.