If you’re considering or about to start online therapy, congratulations — you’re about to begin a journey of self-love and discovery that could be life-changing. But you might be a little daunted by the prospect of attending therapy online, especially if you’ve attended therapy in-person in the past. Whether you’re self-isolating, quarantined, or just looking for a more convenient option, online therapy can be just as useful as in-person therapy, even if it is a little different.
You just need to know what to expect beforehand, and be prepared. Online therapy might feel a little awkward at first, and you’ll definitely need to verbalize your feelings more because your therapist won’t be able to read your body language as well. But online therapy can offer unique advantages, and you can always offer your therapist feedback that can make the transition easier. Here are some tips to help you get as much as you can out of your online therapy experience.
Make Space for Therapy in Your Home and Your Routine
Whether you’re doing online therapy in Florida or elsewhere, you don’t have to go out of your way to make space for in-person therapy, in the sense that you have a little time in the car or on public transport to prepare yourself mentally for your session, and you have a dedicated space — the therapist’s office — in which to conduct the session in privacy. When you leave, you get a chance to digest the session somewhat on the drive home.
Recreate that structure for your online therapy sessions, especially if you’re doing a more traditional type of session, over a webcam. Find a quiet place where you can do your therapy session, free from interruptions and evesdroppers. If you don’t have a quiet space in your house, you can sit in your car, and if you don’t have that option, you may need to resort to sending housemates or family out of the house for an hour or so.
Prepare for a session by going to your quiet place and sitting there for a few minutes before the session, preparing yourself to be intentional, fully present, and vulnerable. Prop up your device so you can video-chat hands-free.
Embrace the Awkwardness
Online therapy sessions are going to feel weird at first, especially if you’ve had in-person therapy with the same therapist before. Aside from technical issues that can arise, you and your therapist may not gel as well at first as you both adjust to the new format. And if you’re used to in-person therapy, you may miss it. You can address that in therapy.
Part of the reason why it can be hard to feel synced up with a therapist when you’re doing online therapy is because body language doesn’t come across as clearly in virtual communication. You’ll need to verbalize your feelings and concerns more, instead of relying on your therapist to intuit your emotions based on your body language. Use this as an opportunity to practice identifying and verbalizing your emotions. The more specific you’re able to be, the better — saying “I’m burnt out” isn’t the same as saying “I’m drained,” for example.
Engage Through Multiple Channels
If you use online therapy to recreate exactly what happens in brick-and-mortar sessions, you’re missing the possibilities of the format. When you’re seeking therapy online, you can use video calls, chat messaging, text messaging, phone calls, or any mix of text, audio, and video that works for you. You don’t need to limit yourself to hour-long sessions — you can talk to your therapist about using check-ins throughout the week to work on issues that you’re struggling to overcome in your daily life, such as forgetting to eat, or conflict with a family member. Communicating via text can help you deal with issues as they come up. Of course, you’ll need to be patient when it comes to response times — don’t expect an instant response to text messages, or other communication attempts outside of sessions. Get clear on your mutual boundaries, and respect them.
Work Together on Technical Problems
Even therapists who do online therapy regularly may have variable tech skills, and if you’re transitioning to online sessions with a therapist who saw you face-to-face before, he or she might need a little time to get used to the new setup. Speak up about problems with lighting, your therapist sitting too close or too far from the camera, he or she not speaking loud enough, or any other technical issues. Try to limit the number of devices using your wifi while you’re in therapy, so your connection is as fast as possible. Keep a backup method of communication, such as a phone call, in your back pocket in case your connection to your therapist is dropped mid-session.
Getting therapy online is a little different from doing it in person, but it can be just as helpful, if not more so. Give online therapy a try and find a new and lasting peace of mind.