Psychiatrist Praises Cell Phone Use During Sessions

Typically seen as a major and fairly constant source of annoyance in the modern world, the ringing of cellphones during meetings, appointments, movie showings, and other events in which a disruption may be jarring is generally not cause for celebration. For many psychotherapists and other professionals in the field, hearing a cellphone ring during a session may produce an unwanted distraction, and some are likely to ask that mobile devices are turned off or switched into silent mode before a session begins. Yet a Boston psychiatrist has recently published an editorial with The New York Times in praise of mid-session cell calls, recognizing their ability to add a new window into the client’s life and social interactions.

The editorial introduces several scenarios in which clients have shown more about a particular issue discussed in therapy through their use of language than they were able to do through talking with the psychiatrist, an element that is praised as being a natural and honest way for therapy sessions to gain new insight into a particular concern. The way in which clients react to their phones sounding off in the first place can also be telling, the psychiatrist notes; while some freely engage in conversation, others may screen their calls or apologize that the phone was turned on. In any case, the psychiatrist notes, the element of the phone as an instrument of the outside world within the confidential and closed-off walls of the therapy room can be a powerful tool for both parties.

Though some professionals may turn away from the potential of cell phone use in-session, others may view the editorial with new eyes –or ears– helping their practice take on a new aspect of efficacy and reach.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • TYSON C.

    TYSON C.

    March 24th, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    This sounds intelligent…to be able to get a different view on a client’s life in order to help him…but hopw many people will actually have the conversation right there? Not many I would guess, because most people prefer to step out to avoid being heard.

  • jake


    March 25th, 2010 at 4:51 AM

    I am not sure how a distraction like this would help make a therapy session more successful?

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