The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about endless changes to “business as usual,” and the process of therapy has been no exception. The rise of teletherapy has many benefits, including increased access to convenient therapy appointments via your computer and making therapy more possible in even the busiest schedules.
However, there are parts of in-person therapy that don’t always translate well to meeting with your therapist over the computer, such as the comfort, privacy, and routine offered by a trip to your therapist’s office. Luckily, there are steps you can take to maximize your teletherapy experience.
Although it may be difficult to find a private space in your home right now, finding somewhere private is essential to good therapy. This could mean sitting in the car in your driveway or even getting comfy in a walk-in closet. Making an effort to ensure your privacy as much as possible is an essential part of at-home teletherapy and may help you feel most comfortable in your therapy sessions.
Spending so much time in our homes these days can result in some blurred boundaries, as our family or roommates may be accustomed to us being available all day long. It is important to let others know that you will be unavailable for the duration of your session (except for an actual emergency, of course). This may mean telling your roommate that you need to be uninterrupted in your room for the full hour, asking your spouse to make sure the kids know not to interrupt you, or even sticking a note on your door letting others know when you’ll be available again.
If you’ve attended therapy in person before, you may have noticed those little whirring white noise machines in the waiting room. These are used to ensure each client’s privacy by masking the conversations taking place in the therapy rooms. If you share your living space with roommates or family members, you may want to get your own white noise machine to place outside your door, just like you’d have if you were at your therapists’ office. If you don’t want to order something, you can also try downloading a white noise app on your phone, turning up the volume, and placing it outside the door of wherever you’re having your teletherapy session.
Therapy from bed may sound amazing in theory: it’s warm, cozy, and comfortable! While it’s important to feel comfortable for your therapy session, therapy is also real work, and is best done sitting up. You’ll notice that your therapist is likely sitting in a chair much like the one in their therapy office. See if you can find a place to sit that’s similar to the therapy office for you, too.
Just like you wouldn’t show up to in-person therapy in your pajamas, try not to show up to teletherapy in your pajamas either. Getting dressed is an important part of taking yourself, and the work of therapy, seriously.
Just as a white noise machine helps to provide you with more privacy, ear buds or a headset will help you focus more on your session, free from distracting noises around you. If your space is less than ideal, this little tip can make all the difference. Moreover, the external audio connection will help your therapist hear you better, and vice versa.
Figuring out lighting for video calls can be challenging, but do your best to make sure that there’s enough light for your therapist to see you clearly. While teletherapy is not quite the same as being in person, having a clear visual can greatly help your therapist interpret how you’re feeling in the moment.
Therapists’ offices usually offer additional comforts, such as a water cooler and certainly a box or two of tissues. In the absence of being in the therapy office, consider stocking up on these familiar supplies in case you want them during a session.
In the context of so many video meetings for work and school, it’s perfectly understandable to feel overloaded and fatigued by so much time in front of a screen. If the video format isn’t working for you, be honest with your therapist about it. Your therapist may have some helpful ideas to troubleshoot, such as holding some sessions over the phone instead.
When you’re meeting your therapist in person, the trip to your therapist’s office provides a nice opportunity to clear your head and make the transition to therapy time. When therapy takes place at your computer, it can be easy for appointments to sneak up on you, without that same chance to deliberately switch gears. Consider setting an alarm ahead of your appointment to remind you the appointment is coming up, so that you have some time to transition away from work or school and get settled into your therapy session space, wherever that is.
Similar to creating a little time before session to “get in the zone,” it’s helpful to leave yourself some time after your session to decompress and avoid feeling the pressure of needing to be “on” as soon as your session ends. Leaving even 15 minutes after your therapy session to make some tea, take a walk, or have a snack before returning to the rest of your day can make a big difference.