Part of adjusting to the new “normal” of life during the coronavirus pandemic is learning how to connect digitally instead of in person. There are lots of social activities that have transferred to a digital space – exercise classes, seminars, book clubs, happy hours – humans are pretty resourceful! It can feel a bit strange to interact with someone on a webcam instead of face to face though, so if you’re feeling uncomfortable remember that’s to be expected. It takes a little adjustment to get used to life changes normally, and life right now is anything but normal. For example, if you’ve only ever attended (or thought about attending) therapy sessions in person, you may be wondering what it’s like to have an online therapy session.
Of course, online therapy was around before coronavirus, and it will be around when the pandemic is over. In fact, you might find that online therapy works better for your lifestyle than in person therapy anyway! Online therapy is convenient, often covered by insurance, and once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty smooth sailing!
There’s a lot of things to be stressed about right now, but worrying about your online therapy session doesn’t have to be one of them. If you like to know what you’re getting into before you get into it, this guide to prepping for online therapy can give you some ways to prepare for your session.
Even though you don’t have to get in the car and drive to therapy, still give yourself some buffer time before and after your appointment. Make sure you have enough time to get your device set up before your appointment so you feel more relaxed. It can also be hard to transition out of therapy back into whatever you’re doing, especially if you’ve been in the same setting the whole time, so building in a little buffer time can give you a chance to reset a little.
Get your space set up
You don’t want to start your session and find out that the wifi sucks where you are. If you get your space set up in advance, you can work out all those little kinks in advance. Try out the webcam and the microphone on your computer to make sure both are working so there are no surprises in session. If there’s software you need to use to meet with your therapist, make sure to familiarize yourself with it first so you’re not frazzled trying to get into your session. Make sure you have a comfortable place to sit, too!
Of course, therapy is a space where you can be super real and vulnerable, so you want to make sure you have a private area for your session. Even though many folks are living in close quarters, if you’re not in a private space you might not be able to focus on your session so it won’t be as helpful to you. If you don’t have a room with a door you can close in your living space, try sitting in your car (if your wifi reaches!) or your garage, or even bring a chair into the bathroom and set up there. For more privacy, wear headphones during your session. You can also download white noise apps for free on your phone (RelaxMelodies is a great one) and play white noise to drown out the noise from your session (or from your household into your session).
Feeling comfy on screen
Remember, we’re here for therapy, so you don’t need to get all fancy for a screen if you don’t want to. If you’re uncomfortable with seeing your own face on camera, see if you can turn off that feature on your end, or bring a sticky note to cover that part of your screen. If there’s anything moving in the room (like a ceiling fan) turn it off before your session so the movement doesn’t mess with your camera. Instead of putting your computer on your lap, put it on a flat surface in front of you so there’s less movement on the other end.
Make sure you have a strong internet connection before an online session. You may need to ask other folks in your home to stop streaming things for an hour during your session to keep the connection strong. If you don’t have a stable internet connection, some phones can be used as a wireless hotspot using your data. Make sure your internet is up and running before your session, so you don’t need to reset anything once you’ve started.
Prepare for issues
Tech is always tricky, and there might be some bumps on the road. Lots of video conferencing services are experiencing delays right now because of COVID-19, so there might be an issue with video quality or sound or something else. Prepare for there to be some hiccups, and have an idea of what you + your therapist will do when they come up. You can even talk to your therapist about this beforehand so you have a plan for what to do in case the technology fails.
Online therapy, like all things, might take some time to adjust to but overall it is a very similar experience to in person therapy – you might be surprised! Follow these tips to prepare yourself for your session and don’t be afraid to ask your therapist questions if you have any.