The onset of the pandemic has brought about increased isolation and stress, driving many individuals to the realization that now is the time to start therapy. Due to safety precautions, however, opportunities for in-person mental health treatment are limited. That brings us to online counseling – a viable therapy option that can help patients address life’s challenges as they arise.
Teletherapy is just like therapy, except it occurs virtually. Like all changes, we might feel some trepidation as we participate in teletherapy for the first time. Don’t let fear keep you from accessing the help you deserve. Use these four tips to help you prepare for your first online teletherapy session so you can feel confident in taking care of your mental health.
1. Set up your space
Getting ready to start teletherapy requires a slight adjustment from traditional therapy, because this time you’re in your own home. Your space may need a few alterations to match the privacy and comfort of a therapy office.
First, you’ll want to designate a place to sit during your teletherapy sessions. Find a comfy chair and a background that won’t be distracting. Good lighting will help your therapist interact with you, since facial expressions, gestures and other non-verbal communication will be easier to see.
If you share your living space with roommates or family members, make sure you find a place that’s private. If you’re worried about being overheard, try a whitenoise maker app or use headphones. If you have children, consider turning on a show to keep your kids occupied during your session.
2. Practice using the software
When you sign up for your first teletherapy appointment, you will be told how to access the online platform for your session. Someone from your provider’s office will send you the necessary information, or you will receive instructions over the phone. You will likely need to log into a secure online platform that enables two-way video communication.
These software programs are designed to keep your personal data encrypted and your sessions private. The security measures are all for your benefit, so the extra hassle of downloading the software is well worth it. The program you will be asked to use is HIPAA-compliant, meaning it meets federal privacy requirements.
Once you have gained access to the online video conferencing platform, take the time to grow familiar with it. You might want to know how it feels to be on camera so you’re not distracted when the session starts and you see yourself on screen for the first time.
Better yet, see how it feels to be on screen, and then see if you can hide the self-view so that you’re only seeing your therapist during the session. A study conducted by Stanford researchers noted that seeing ourselves in real-time makes us more critical. If possible, look to keep self-conscious thoughts to a minimum by turning off self-view.
3. Set aside some extra time
You have already set aside time for your teletherapy appointment, but consider setting aside some extra time before and after, too. Typically, we spend the minutes immediately surrounding therapy sitting in a waiting room, walking to and from our car, and driving. The luxury of having sessions from home means we no longer have those tasks.
Although it’s nice to save ourselves the drive, many people use that time to prepare for and process therapy sessions. The reflection time, even if it’s unintentional, is still built into the schedule. Being home, we can easily transition back into a crowded family room or start a new task a minute later, without giving ourselves time to pause and soak up what we gained from a session.
Get in the habit of setting aside some extra reflection time before and after a session. Establishing this intentional time early on will help it to stick as part of your teletherapy routine.
Designating some reflection time outside of your sessions is the best way to squeeze the most out of them. If you can’t set aside time before or after you meet with your therapist, set aside a block of time the next day for intentional processing.
4. Get in the zone
Teletherapy, just like traditional therapy, is going to address some difficult things. It’s likely that you’ll start the session with some apprehension and finish it with some weariness. Opening up may be the healthiest thing you do for yourself, but that doesn’t make it easy at the time. Get yourself in a good headspace to be open before the session starts. The time you’ve set aside will help tremendously with this, but remember to fill that time with mindful habits.
Some strategies you may want to try include meditation or prayer, deep breathing, a few stretches or yoga poses, a cup of soothing tea, journaling or reading a daily reflection. Not only are these helpful before and after sessions, but you can incorporate them into your daily life whenever the need to de-stress arises.
Starting teletherapy is an important step towards improving mental well-being. Preparing yourself for the transition will help you to feel more comfortable so that you can get more out of your sessions. When you are in a safe space, give yourself reflection time and know the software, you’ll be better equipped to get the treatment you deserve.
Start teletherapy today with a licensed professional at Rehab After Work – a treatment program that specializes in drug and alcohol addiction recovery, and is currently offering both in-person and virtual therapy services. Schedule your substance use teletherapy session today, or call (610) 644-6464 for more information regarding teletherapy for rehab and recovery.