Making the Most of Your Online Therapy Session
These are strange and unprecedented times we find ourselves in. For the foreseeable future, all therapists I know, including myself, are working remotely exclusively, either by phone or using a secure video platform.
The good news is that therapy done by video, in my experience, can still be a potent, effective, and worthwhile endeavour. And, there are a few things which can really make a difference in terms of setting it up. Read on for some suggestions that will help you to get the most out of your online therapy hour! Note: some of these are also applicable to phone counselling, though not all.
- Choose your location carefully. If your home is small, you may not have a lot of options. But to the extent that you can, choose a room where you can have privacy. Choose as well a place where you can set yourself up with good lighting. It is helpful to me to be able to see your face clearly, and I will do the same for you. If it will make it easier for you to relax, make sure your room is tidy and organized (though don't bother with that for my benefit). Consider sound privacy as well. If you have other people in your household who may be able to hear you, try setting up a white noise app on your phone outside the room where you are having your session. If there is no privacy in your home, perhaps your car is an option?
- If you can, use a computer rather than a phone or tablet. The screen is bigger, for one. Try to position your computer so that the screen is at eye height, perhaps stacked on some books. This makes it easier for us to feel like we are looking at each other in the eyes.
- Turn off all notifications, both on your phone near you and also on your computer. Turn off your mail client if it makes noise. If your texts go to your computer, turn that off if you can. If you wouldn't want to check notifications in your therapist's office, eliminate the temptation for your home session too. I will of course do the same. If I move away from our video for any reason -- to look at my calendar while we schedule, or to find a link for you -- I will tell you what I'm doing so that you don't ever have to wonder whether you have my full attention.
- If you prefer, there is an option in Zoom to hide your own image from yourself -- so you don't see the little video of yourself. Many people find their own image distracting, so once you know that you are positioned well in the frame, feel free to turn it off if you like that better.
- Block yourself out this hour to really focus. Don't try to multi-task, and tell your family not to interrupt you. Even though it will feel different than being in my office, this is still your time. Honour it.
- Please feel free to give me feedback about picture quality, sound quality, or what you need from me. Small shifts can make a difference -- perhaps you need more eye contact, or to see more of my body and not just my face. Please ask! I will be tracking you as best as I can, but feel free as well to offer information about what I might not be able to see -- clenched fists, slightly teary eyes, held breath -- so we can explore those things together. Tracking your own body experience in this way is always helpful and that is equally true when we are not in the same room.
With these tips put into practice, as best as you can given your circumstances, I think you will find too that teletherapy is a worthwhile thing -- certainly better than no therapy at all, and often just as good, albeit different. I look forward to "seeing" you soon!
I would like to acknowledge that while I had been thinking about this subject and planning to write something for the past week or so, I was inspired today particularly by two AEDP faculty members, Karen Pando-Mars and Ben Medley, who led a webinar on this subject. Thank you to them for their generous sharing and wisdom!