For patients dealing with illness or injury, there comes a time when the medical treatment ends and they’re left to deal with the physical and emotional scars of their trauma alone.
For many, those physical scars can be hidden. But when the wounds are on your face, they are public. They are life-changing.
Non-profit Face2Face Healing was established to support people dealing with facial disfigurement. Its members are drawn from all over the world, and its purpose is to fill the gap between the end of medical treatment and the beginning of the rest of the patient’s life.
It’s a multifaceted organization that uses what has become common video conferencing technology to create a supportive, self-help forum. The video conferencing group therapy they offer combines the anonymity of a home phone call with the intimacy of an in-person chat. And it’s boundless, much like the internet itself.
The people who access Face2Face Healing have a range of backgrounds. They carry the evidence of birth defects, cancer treatment, burns, injuries, or neurological issues. Group founder Karen Scuilli has said her intention was to help people with facial disfigurement accept and embrace the changes in their lives.
“It’s almost like a grieving process–grieving for the life or face you had before,” Scuilli says. “When you release that, when you embrace the change and know that you’re more than your face, more than your scars, there’s a true beauty that comes from that.”
Scuilli believes the social aspect of Face2Face is a complement to modern medicine. She regularly meets with people over a basic video conferencing link and can bring together sufferers separated by oceans. It creates an intimate setting where, as Scuilli says, words aren’t needed and people can find “automatic friends.”
You can hear her for yourself in this video:
That kind of intimacy requires a degree of comfort to achieve, and a video link gives people the ability to stay within personal, private places while reaching out to others. Recent research has shown a person’s self-perception of their appearance has a profound impact on their ability to function within broader society. Having the option to stay home rather than venture out in public to get to and from a meeting has obvious advantages when you are coming to terms with a facial disfigurement.
While Face2Face views itself as complementary to mainstream medicine, its method of providing both anonymity and intimacy has the potential to be incorporated into the traditional healthcare system.
Video Conferencing Group Therapy
There are several instances where video conferencing is already being used to encourage people to seek help when they’d otherwise feel too ashamed. UK group Healios recently received almost $3 million in government funding to develop a digital platform to care for young people and families affected by mental illness. That project will use video conferencing to perform psychological assessments, treatments, and well-being monitoring online. A similar trial of video conferencing mental health care is currently underway at several Texas universities.
A potential patient only needs an introductory email or phone call and an internet connection and basic webcam to connect with these services, and there’s no reason for anyone else to even know they sought help. Therapy via video conferencing can give people the chance to gather strength before they have to face the wider world. It’s also accessible and affordable enough to serve almost any specific cause.
Simply put, any time conversation and connection can help, video conferencing can be used. Any in-person self-help meeting can be replicated online, whether it’s to help people cope with issues of alcohol and drug use, grief, divorce, parenthood, or illness. And, the same methods of referral and online advertising that raise awareness for real-world groups can be harnessed for the video versions.
So how do you put these ideas into action? Well, free video platforms like Skype cater to dozens of group attendees at once, and, as every smartphone now acts as a portal to a video chat, getting in touch visually is easy. In fact, the recent proliferation of video calling functions within mainstream messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat means group members can stage their own one-to-one or small group meetings with very little planning or organizing involved.
Just as the founders of Face2Face Healing have proved, video conferencing can provide a middle step between the end of the trauma and the beginning of a reintroduction to social life.