The Internet Is My TherapistLizzie Heiselt
I am sometimes uncomfortable with the amount of time I spend on the Internet. It worries me, occasionally, how dependent I have become on it for peer interaction on the days (and sometimes weeks) when I am mostly home with my children. Face-to-face meetings are much more worthwhile to me, and often when I’m either mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or drafting sincere and thoughtful e-mails to friends, I feel as though I am wasting time and cheating myself out of important face-time — whether it be with my kids or with friends who live close by. Many times I end my time on the computer with a heavy sigh and a promise to be more focused and disciplined with my screen time.
But in the wake of the news that people who receive therapy online, rather than meeting with a psychologist in person, have as good or better outcomes than those who schlep to an office for their sessions, I’m wondering if there could be therapeutic benefits to my web-surfing ways even the unfocused, unstructured ones.
Certainly, I gain some peace of mind from not having to take my children to Target, where half the time my local store in Brooklyn is out of half the items on my list, and the aisles are crowded and the lines long. Many thanks to Amazon Prime and two-day delivery for that little slice of sanity.
It is always nice to be able to share exciting news or tiny victories, or day-to-day frustrations with my friends on Facebook, and to receive support and encouragement and excitement from them in return. It helps me to feel as though I am not alone even if it’s been days since I spoke with another adult besides my husband.
Being able to Skype with my family members, who are scattered across the country, has helped me to feel less lonely as well, and has strengthened our relationships with each other. I always know my family is concerned and interested in me and my children, but I appreciate being able to see that concern and interest and to express my own for them as face-to-face as we can get when we are thousands of miles away from each other.
Sometimes the unconnected, unfocused web-surfing, following my curiosity and seeing where it leads, helps me unwind and relax a little bit. Not always, of course. But sometimes when I don’t have children vying for my attention or other, more urgent matters to attend to. After the kids are in bed, however, when I finally have a chance to catch my breath and relax my shoulders, it’s almost like a mini-vacation to be able to let my mind explore a small part of the vast world of information and images that are wired directly into my home.
However, and maybe this is completely unsurprising for a writer like myself, it is the time spent reading the beautiful thoughts and words of others that brings a clarity of mind and a feeling of peace and companionship to even my most anxiety-ridden days. So many times, in reading the words of a stranger, I am able to see myself and my life in a new way. The difficult seems less difficult, unnecessary guilt flies away, and the hopelessly complex situations that surround parenthood are simplified. Their stories and viewpoints often inspire me to be more caring and thoughtful and mindful, to tune into my own instincts regarding my children and family, and to take criticism less harshly and disappointment less personally.
So perhaps I should be less surprised that Internet therapy can be an effective treatment for those who would normally see a psychologist in an office. There is, after all, a huge comfort in being able to connect and learn and explore and be inspired from the comfort of your own home.