By Jean Fain
“How’d you do with your eating since last we met?” I recently asked members of my group on food issues.
“I’m really struggling,” said Heidi, a 27-year-old entrepreneur from Boston. “When I get overly full, that self-critical voice takes over. All I can think is ‘Screw it! I’ll start fresh tomorrow.’ I don’t know how not to let my eating spiral into overeating.”
Lydia, a 45 year-old minister from Akron, jumped in: “Instead of believing that self-critical voice, I’ve been telling myself: ‘That’s not what I believe.'”
“Did you hear that?” I asked Heidi. “Next time you start thinking ‘Screw it,’ you might try ‘That’s not what I believe’ or another of Lydia’s inspired responses.”
Heidi and Lydia (not their real names) are talking face to face, but not in person. Thanks to recent telecommunications advances, the 650 miles between the two are no barrier to participating in my eight-week group on using self-compassion for eating issues. Nor is a six-hour time difference. Last week, one participant Skyped in from her Lisbon hotel room.
Yes, I’ve jumped on the telemedicine bandwagon. I’m just discovering what hospitals, home health agencies and other major health organizations have been touting as the most cost-effective alternative to traditional face-to-face medicine since castor oil.
Clients with food and body image issues generally feel a lot less self-conscious attending a group remotely than up close and personal.
I knew about the telemedicine or “telehealth” trend, using technology to remotely deliver health-care services and information. But I’d never seriously considered joining the high-tech trendsetters. For decades, I’ve been happily providing individual and group therapy the old-fashioned way, and there are major legal questions about virtual psychotherapy, particularly across state lines.
According to Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Telemental Health Institute, “It’s the wild west. Clinicians are making up their own rules and disregarding those they agreed to follow when they got their licenses, and the consumers are at risk. They really don’t know who’s the right person to go to.”
Then, three things converged:
• Sixty-five members of The Center for Mindful Eating from around the world enthusiastically participated in my teleconference on The Self-Compassion Diet.
• My clients started complaining about sitting in traffic during the interminable reconstruction of Route 2 in Concord, Mass.
• One client couldn’t say enough about her Skype sessions with Los Angeles nutritionist and mindful eating author, Evelyn Tribole.
So I asked myself: “Why not Skype with clients?” Well, because telemedicine has real downsides. Besides the fuzzy legal regulations, I had at least three other concerns: Continue reading