Seven Strategies for Successful Teletherapy
So, you are thinking about talking to a therapist. But you’re not sure. When you think about revealing your personal feelings and emotions, it’s hard enough, because you already don’t know the person you will be talking to. On top of that, you are meeting them through a screen. Awkward much?
I just want to tell you, I hear you. Because when I started doing teletherapy, I felt weird about it, too.
Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, like most therapists, I was doing therapy exclusively in my physical office. I did know people who did teletherapy, but it wasn’t the bulk of their work, and they seemed to be in the minority. It wasn’t really a thing that most therapists I knew were doing. And to be honest, it felt sort of strange to me. Why talk to someone on a screen instead of in-person?
But COVID-19 changed all of that. Now, most therapists that I know do teletherapy. Since concerns about health and safety became an issue, I have gone to doing therapy completely remotely. Like many, I had to quickly adapt, but sometimes, that’s how we learn. And I was pleasantly surprised that my clients and I adapted pretty quickly, so now, it’s become pretty normal to me.
The good news is that online therapy for individuals is showing to be just as effective as in-person therapy. Even couples are benefitting. Since I work exclusively with individual adults and occasionally, couples, I can’t speak to its efficacy with groups or kids. But if you are 18 and over and thinking about therapy now, that’s a plus.
The downside is, of course, that we don’t get to see each other in person in the same physical space, and there is still something to be said about the in-person connection. Privacy is more stable in-person. I can set up the therapy environment when you come see me
But right now, I’m not one of them. I foresee doing teletherapy for the rest of 2020, at least. Even when I resume work from my physical office, I will likely keep teletherapy as an option, which will be he helpful to clients with long commutes, health issues, or physical challenges.
- A good Wifi or ethernet connection. The last thing you want is to be winking in and out of the screen while you are discussing your issues and emotions. So make sure that you have good bandwidth where you are.
- A laptop, tablet or smartphone. You will get the best view and largest screen on a laptop, but if you need to use these other devices, they will suffice. The benefit of the latter two is they are more portable if you need to do therapy in a more unusual place. More on that later…
- A stable surface to place the device. This will give your hand and body a rest, and give the therapist the ability to focus on you, without your head/body bouncing around.
- Privacy. Now that many of us are doing therapy sessions from our homes, it’s a mixed bag. Some of you have plenty of space where you can be private and secure, with a door that closes and if needed, locks. Others, not so much. It can feel awkward to discuss an issue about, say, your child, when said child is in the other room and may be able to hear you. Here are some options:
–A closet. If you really feel there is more privacy there, go for it. As long as we can see your face clearly (so you’ll need a good light), it doesn’t really matter if you are surrounded by your wardrobe or shoes.
–A white noise machine. These can be purchased at office stores or online and can run the range of prices. Nothing fancy is needed! Just a “fan” sound helps. Place it outside the door of the room where you are having your session, turn it on, and you now have some sound-proofing and privacy from others hearing you, whether deliberately or accidentally.
–Your car, if you have one! If it’s really impossible to have privacy in your home, go ahead, sit in your car. If you really don’t have any of these options above, you can even go to a park, although that carries the risk that others nearby can hear you.
- Limit distractions. If you have kids, try to make arrangements for someone to hang out with them during your therapy sessions so you can focus on YOU. Not only will your sessions feel more productive, but doing this sends kids a powerful message that you are worthy of self-care this way, too. Turn off or mute your cellphone.
- Be dressed in some way. I don’t mean, super-groomed, like you are going to work or a party. One of the benefits of being at home is that you can be casual, in pajamas or work-out clothes, so that’s fine with me. I just mean, have a shirt on and any intimate parts covered up.
- Be on time. Ideally, your therapist will be on time, too. If for some reason either of you are delayed, you can let each other know via text or phone. That way, you get the benefit of your full hour, and neither of you has to wonder or worry that something happened to the other person.
Here are some optional things, now that we are getting into shorter days and less light:
A ringlight. I got one on Amazon. This is because if your only source of light is a lamp in front of your face, that’s harsh on your eyes. The ring light is way easier on your eyes, and the one I got has three kinds of light, plus a dimmer switch, to modify the intensity. BTW, this is a great option for any online meetings where others need to see you.
A stand for your device. Like I say, your therapist does need to be able to see your face fully at eye level during your session. You can place your laptop or device on a stack of books, a tray, or even a portable stand, to do this.
I’m not endorsing any particular brands, nor do I get any compensation for my recommendations here. I just want to share with you things that work for me, because I want you to feel that therapy is a successful, positive experience for you, whether online or in-person.
So now that you know the basics of making teletherapy work, call me to schedule!
* There are some therapists who at this time are seeing people in physical office spaces for a number of reasons. If you decide to do this, I recommend you ask about their hygiene/safety protocols. It is then up to you to decide that you are willing to adhere to them, and whether you are comfortable with whatever health risks might by posed by seeing someone during this time.