COVID-19 may suspend many day-to-day, in-person activities – therapy doesn’t have to be one of them. Online counseling is an option.
There’s no getting around it – our day to day lives are changing way faster than we can keep up with right now. With more and more social distancing happening (both mandatory and voluntary), it’s very possible for feelings of isolation, anxiety and overwhelm to set in, leaving you with a diminished capacity to care for and support your loved ones and your community. I believe it’s more important than ever to tend to your emotional and mental health alongside your physical well-being, and online counseling can help.
My top priorities are your mental and emotional health as well as your physical safety/wellness – please know that one doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other.
I offer online counseling sessions – which means you can meet with me and it will feel like a Skype or FaceTime call (but it will really be through a HIPAA secure video connection). This is perfect for when one of us is sick, the weather isn’t cooperating, or ya know, we’re under a bunch of stay-at-home orders until further notice.
Online therapy can be more than in-person therapy’s crappy substitute teacher. In fact, some clients prefer online therapy. Whatever your feelings are about online therapy, use the guidelines below to get ready for an online session to help you get the most from your time with your therapist.
Set up your space
Pick a familiar place for your session. If you’ll be in your car for privacy or to reduce distractions, consider driving somewhere with a pleasant view.
- Make it cozy – light a candle, get a favorite beverage, and wear comfy clothes (if you can).
- Make it comfortable – set up your device so you can be hands-free by either using a computer or propping your phone up ahead of time.
*pro tip* it will feel more like in-person interaction if you position your screen height so the image of therapist’s face on your screen is equal to yours.
- Make it private – using headphones will help reduce distractions and improve the audio quality by reducing that “eho-y” thing we all hate. You can create more privacy by using a sound machine outside your door. Don’t have one? You can also play white noise through another device like your phone, computer, bluetooth speaker or tv.
Log on early
Try to get into your session 5-10 minutes early so you have time to resolve any tech issues. Most issues can be fixed by restarting a device, logging out and back in, or disconnecting and re-connecting wifi. You’ll feel less rush and frazzled if you’re not worried about “wasting” session time with tech issues.
Once your session starts, maximize the screen of whatever device you’re using. This will further minimize distractions and also make your therapist’s presence feel more tangible.
Look at their face
During your session, concentrate on your therapist’s face the way you do in person. In general – you probably alternate between looking at their eyes/face and glancing around the room every now and then – just do the same with video: focus on their face but feel free to look around from time to time too.
If you’re feeling self-conscious or finding the video view of yourself distracting, get rid of it! If you can’t close the tile with your video, try putting a sticky note over it.
If the video or audio glitches and you didn’t catch something your therapist said – let them know. If you said something and they didn’t respond to it and now you’re feeling weird – let them know! There might have been a glitch on their end and they don’t realize they missed something. Overcommunicate with your therapist if something feels off.
After in-person sessions, you at least have the walk to your car and maybe the drive to your next destination before you totally re-engage in life, right? Try to give yourself at least a couple of minutes to just sit with what took place in your session before you open your door again to the outside world.
Follow Up at Your Next Session
If something felt off or weird to you but you couldn’t or didn’t mention it at the time (maybe you didn’t realize it until later), be sure to bring it up at your next session. Your therapist wants to know how you’re doing – and that includes how the use of technology is impacting your time together. Speak up!