Why Use Picture Messaging in Online Therapy?

If you’re reading this blog post, odds are you are at least somewhat familiar with Talkspace. If not, let me fill you in.

Talkspace is an online therapy platform and app that allows clients and therapists to send an unlimited number of messages back and forth, securely and confidentially. No commutes or scheduling — with all the benefits of traditional, in-person therapy. Needless to say, convenience and affordability are major selling points of the platform.

The vast majority of our users send texts, though many additionally rely on both video and audio messages. What may surprise you is that there is also a significant subset of people who regularly communicate using another format: picture messaging.

Picture messaging is what it sounds like. If you’ve ever snapped a photo of something you were doing (or feeling) and sent it to a friend or family member, you may already get why we’ve included picture messaging as a feature of the Talkspace platform.

Several counselors and reviewers have analogized the process to a confidential version of Snapchat. Talkspace users send images — sometimes memes — to visually express how they are feeling. The medium also allows people to share events and impactful moments with their therapists. Talkspace therapist Chandrika Mose has worked with clients who sent pictures of their vacations, for example.

Picture messaging often helps clients engage in therapy by making the communication fun, creative, and playful. Some Talkspace users expect their therapists to reply with photos, and they happily oblige.

Amanda Rausch, another therapist and the Manager of Therapist Community and Enrichment at Talkspace, has sent pictures to clients who have not messaged in a long time but are still active users of the app. Some of them have reengaged and gone on to make progress in therapy. Sometimes a compelling image is what it takes to galvanize someone who isn’t feeling motivated to dive back into therapy after taking a pause.

There are also clinical applications that allow therapists to digitally mimic facets of traditional in-person psychotherapy. Rausch has used picture messaging to assign worksheets that help clients feel better and achieve mental health goals.

“I take a photo and send it to my client and they print it from their phone, complete the page, and take a photo and send back,” Rausch explained.

Using a similar process, picture messaging can make it easier for people to objectively present evidence for consideration. In a session without any images, a client might struggle to accurately describe a troubling text message or social media post. By instead attaching a screenshot of the issue, clients and therapists have something tangible to analyze.

“I’ve had clients send their text conversations to give a context of what they are attempting to explain,” Magnuson said. “One of my clients wanted to work on communication with their partner, and I used the conversation they sent over to point out what was going well and what could use work.”

Picture messaging is impactful because it facilitates a new form of therapeutic dialogue by supplementing the client’s vocabulary and tone within the digital medium. If users are at a loss for words or don’t feel like transcribing a hectic jumble of thoughts into a coherent text message, they can send a simple image. Rather than depending entirely on speech to detail a situation or problem, therapists and clients can review visual aids. People can combine every form of communication to create a robust experience.

Published by

Joseph Rauch

Staff Writer at Talkspace