Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many people have been foregoing in-person therapy sessions in favor of virtual appointments. Online therapy can be a great option, especially if you can’t get out of the house or live in a community without many therapy providers.
Of course, online therapy isn’t quite the same as in-person therapy, and it can feel a little weird at first, especially if you’re used to getting therapy in person. But it’s usually cheaper than face-to-face therapy, and it can actually be easier to open up in an online session where you feel somewhat buffered from the presence of your therapist. Follow this step-by-step guide to make online therapy work for you.
Go to a Licensed Provider
There are a lot of bad therapists out there, and it may be a good idea to learn how to identify one. You can avoid many bad therapists by making sure you go to a licensed provider with training in mental health. Anyone can call themselves a therapist; instead, look for a psychologist, licensed professional counselor (LPC), or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). If you think you may need medication, seek an online therapy service like https://plushcare.com/online-therapy/, that lets you book virtual appointments with psychiatrists, as well.
Make Sure Your Insurance Covers Teletherapy
Check with your insurance provider to make sure virtual therapy is covered, and make sure you choose an online therapy provider that accepts your insurance (some don’t accept insurance at all). Ask how many sessions you’re allowed to attend each year, too.
Choose a Cozy, Comfy Spot for Therapy
You won’t have the advantage of your therapist’s peaceful, private office for virtual therapy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in a quiet, private, peaceful space for your session. Make it a priority. Have your family leave the house so you can curl up in your favorite chair, with your best fuzzy blanket, a bottle of water, and a box of tissues. Turn the lights down low if you want.
Check Your Devices and Apps
Before each online therapy session, but especially before the first one, check your devices beforehand to make sure your device is working and that the application you plan to use is also online. Some therapists use familiar apps like Zoom or Skype to perform virtual therapy, while others may use proprietary software that belongs to their practice. Make sure you’ve downloaded what you need to download and that you’re able to use it, that everything is working, and that you have a spot to prop up your device so you can talk with your hands.
Give Yourself Some Time to Transition
Start preparing yourself mentally for your therapy session 20 minutes beforehand. Brew yourself a mug of soothing herbal tea, grab a notebook, and sit down and jot down what you want to discuss in the session. If you’ve been working towards any goals with your therapist, jot down your progress and any setbacks.
After your session, you’ll need some time to decompress and process. Plan to give yourself a half hour to recover emotionally and gradually turn your thoughts toward moving on with your day. A short walk after therapy is perfect for boosting your mood. It’ll give you time to think and will reduce your stress.
Persevere (At Least a Little)
The first couple of online therapy sessions are bound to feel weird and awkward. If you’ve had therapy in person with this specific therapist before, transitioning to online treatment may feel even weirder than if you started afresh with someone new. In both scenarios, you should give it at least a few sessions before you consider switching providers. In the second scenario, you may have invested in the therapeutic relationship to give it longer than that.
You can’t read body language as well over a webcam as you can in person, so both you and your therapist will need a little extra time to build trust, and you’ll need to learn to vocalize your feelings, since your therapist won’t be able to pick up on them as easily. After the first few sessions, you should start to feel the awkwardness abating. If it doesn’t — or gets worse — it’s not a sign that therapy can’t work for you. It’s probably a sign that you just aren’t a good fit with this therapist. Seek help from another provider. Some people go through multiple therapists before they find one they click with, so try not to get discouraged if the second provider also isn’t a good fit.
Going to therapy online is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Stop shoving your issues under the rug, and get the help you need to be your best self. You deserve it.