By Dr. Victoria Raymond, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
5 Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Virtual Therapy Session
Virtual therapy sessions are the new normal. Our lives have changed profoundly in the past few months. As we continue to process the impacts of this pandemic, I believe we might be developing a new normal in the field of psychology: virtual therapy. (It’s got a lot of synonyms, including online therapy, telehealth therapy, telemental health, and teletherapy.)
I have been offering virtual therapy appointments to clients for years. My clients are professionals, parents, couples, and students. They prefer virtual sessions for a variety of reasons, including flexibility in scheduling and the convenience of connecting from their own home, completely cutting out commute time.
The concept of privacy is especially important in therapy, as the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist relies on the principles of confidentiality. Many of my clients are physicians, attorneys, entrepreneurs, and executives who are well-known in the local community. These clients often prefer virtual sessions, as it eliminates the risk of seeing patients or clients of their own in a therapist’s office. The ability to choose this option for telehealth therapy increases their privacy.
If you are thinking about beginning virtual therapy or want more out of your telehealth sessions, here are some tips to help you fully benefit from your sessions.
1. Find a Private Space
Sometimes you may need to get creative – especially if you have a partner or roommate also working from home, little ones running around, or are in the office – in order to find a place to be alone. Your car parked somewhere private, can be a great option. Other clients like to sit on their balcony or patio or take walks while we speak. It is important to find a space where you feel free to express yourself authentically, without fear of being overheard or seen. Some of my clients schedule our appointments on their shared calendars as a recurring meeting and therefore can avoid any questions from colleagues or family.
2. Set The Scene…and Yourself
Take a few moments before each session to center yourself. Oftentimes, when attending in-person therapy sessions, clients will sit in the waiting room for a few minutes, sipping tea and gathering their thoughts before the session begins. With virtual sessions, it is helpful to give yourself a few minutes prior to the appointment to prepare. I suggest that clients set a reminder for 5-10 minutes before their appointment time; this way they can set up a comfortable space, get themselves some water or tea, and take a few calming breaths. This is also a useful time to review any notes you may have taken between sessions.
3. Check Your Connectivity
Try to figure out where you have the strongest internet connection. If WiFi is acting up, switch over to data. If neither one is working, switch to the phone. One thing this pandemic is teaching us: Flexibility is key. It is helpful to keep your devices (including headphones) charged so you can approach your session with mindfulness and be fully present- and not worrying about whether your phone battery is too low.
4. Give Feedback
Please tell your therapist if you cannot see or hear, if the connection is bad, or if your dog barking in the background is distracting you. We want to make this the best possible experience for you; so please be honest.
5. Be Yourself
One of the best parts of virtual therapy is that it allows clients to feel comfortable in their surroundings: Wear your most comfy sweats, wrap up in your favorite blanket, stay in your sweaty gym clothes, have your furry friends close by (I love meeting my clients’ pets!). We are more likely to be open and authentic – and to talk about things we really need to talk about – when we feel most comfortable. Telemental health offers a unique opportunity to lean into this – take advantage of it!
To start your search for a therapist who offers virtual therapy, click here to search your area and then filter your results by the Type of Service “Telehealth.”
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