The most theatrical sauna I’ve been to seats about 80 people and requires, by custom, silence – unless you have a poem or verse memorized and would like to recite it. That’s the tradition at the Oregon Country Fair’s private sauna for staff.
That happens in the Summer but as I write this, it’s the middle of Winter – where in the US do you go for a hot day at the beach (besides Florida or Hawaii)? You might go to a sauna. It’s not the beach on a hot day, but in some ways, it’s better. The acoustics are better for reciting verse, for example. There are other advantages but the point is that rather than being a weak imitation of the beach on a hot day, the sauna is something different, with its own merits.
As we move into a digital era, riding the coattails of digital marketing and other online efficiencies, we have to look for parallels to the sauna vs hot-day-at-beach dynamic.
In the realm of psychotherapy, therapists who are used to delivering their services in-person experiment with “teletherapy” delivered over the phone or video (quite different experiences).
As with remote consulting and online learning, our initial assumption was that neither party needing to travel was the primary value driver of teletherapy. And it perhaps still is. Online therapy has been seen as a convenient but lower-value version of in-person.
But therapists and their patients discover ways to embrace online therapy and discover its merits. Just as all of us can embrace the benefits of online consulting, down to its most minute details:
- A phone conversation can be more revealing than an in-person meeting (or a video conference).
- A video conference can bring people’s faces closer together than during an in-person meeting
- It is more natural to record online audio/video conferences than in-person meetings; together with improving transcription services, online consulting creates resources that can be revisited and mined in ways that meetings cannot be
- Online meetings come with the ability to easily share computer screens back and forth – and links sent in chat
- Online meetings can fairly easily scale to 15 or even 150 people, using a product like Zoom at least, the upper end of which is very difficult to achieve in-person
- Using the right audio technology – on both ends – we can actually make ourselves heard and understood more easily than in many typical in-person venues
Of course, phone and online meetings can also be disastrous in ways that exceed even the worst in-person meeting. Especially if you don’t practice them.
Jason Fried has said that if you’re going to start a remote company, at least 50% of your staff should be remote. In other words, you don’t want an almost entirely in-person workforce with a couple of outliers on the horizons. They’ll be isolated because the rest of the team won’t know how to communicate with them.
It’s the same with therapists and consultants who primarily do their work in-person. If they use the Internet as an afterthought or special use case, they won’t develop the necessary skills to turn it into a sales and marketing asset, not just a pale imitation of the so-called real thing.