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Make Your Online Therapy Sessions More Comfortable & Enjoyable

Prior to 2020, virtual therapy was rare. It simply wasn’t a modality that existed for a number of reasons. One such reason was insurance, as virtual services were not likely to be covered. Another was technology. While the capability for on-line counseling might have existed, there were security issues to consider. Still another reason was tradition. Therapy is an intimate and very personal experience. The idea of doing it through a screen just wasn’t as appealing. Covid 19, however, changed all of that. Suddenly, the way in which we looked at therapy shifted. Insurance companies began covering telehealth services, initially as a short-term measure during the shutdown and then later as an on-going option for clients. Mental health practitioners were trained in how to provide on-line therapy using secure, HIPAA compliant platforms. And we all gradually came to recognize that online therapy was a convenient and effective treatment option with therapeutic outcomes that matched those of in-person support services. While online therapy may have come about out of necessity, the good news is telehealth is here to stay. So how does it work, exactly, and how can you make the most of your online therapy experience? Here are three ways to make your online therapy sessions more comfortable and enjoyable.

1) Ask questions! If you are looking into mental health services, ask potential providers what they offer. Some may offer online counseling only, some may offer no online counseling at all, and others will offer a combination of both options. Feel free to ask providers why they’ve made the choices they’ve made about virtual vs in person services, what percentage of their clients are all virtual vs in person, and if they have any clients who take advantage of both (some sessions in person, and other sessions virtual). This will give you a better idea of how comfortable your potential therapist is providing online therapy, and how they approach virtual services.

Talking with potential providers in advance about what platform they use for telehealth services and how it works procedurally will reduce anxiety prior to appointments. Some providers use Google Meet, some Zoom, and others work with platforms that are available within specific therapy apps. It’s important to know ahead of time if you need to download anything specific or if you can just log on and join the call. The last thing you need when you’re meeting your therapist online for the first time is the added stress of technology not working as expected! It’s also helpful to ask when and how your therapist will send the link or how you do in fact join the virtual session. Do you need a code? How far in advance of the appointment time will you receive the link? Days? Hours? Minutes? Again, knowing these things in advance drastically reduces any pre-appointment jitters and makes for a more comfortable experience.

Similar to in-person therapy, it’s always a good idea to check with your insurance provider ahead of time to clarify benefits. While the majority of insurance companies have made telehealth services a permanent benefit even post-pandemic, it’s important to understand ahead of time if there are any restrictions to this service. For example, some insurance companies will cover virtual services but will not cover a phone session. If using insurance, it’s best to double check.

2) Be prepared! Make sure you find an appropriate space ahead of the online appointment. It should be somewhere private, free of distractions, quiet, and some place where you can relax and be comfortable. Trying to attend a virtual counseling session in a public area, or with kids screaming and running around in the background, or roommates within earshot is just not conducive to therapy. And trying to meet online while driving? Well, not only is that not conducive but it’s dangerous as well. If you have young kids at home, see if you can line up a sitter for the hour or ask your partner to be in charge. If you have roommates, let them know you’ll be in a meeting and unavailable, and ask them if they could please keep any extra noise to a minimum. If there are others in the vicinity during your appointment time, using a “white noise” app might help you feel more comfortable. There are some that can be downloaded for free.

If you’re going to be attending your online therapy session using your phone (versus a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer), make sure you have a solid surface to set it on. Trying to hold a phone in the air while getting through your session is tiring, and it’s distracting to both you and the therapist when the faces on screen are bobbing around.

And while we’re on the subject of phones, turn them off or silence them during your session if you are using a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer, and turn off your phone notifications if you’re using the phone itself to join the session.

Other considerations to prepare for your online session? Take a few deep breaths before the session and try to relax if you can. Play some music, stretch, or simply close your eyes for a minute or two. Earphones are often nice to have during the session if you have some. And be sure to tend to any bodily needs ahead of time. Just as you would for an in-person session, use the restroom in advance, get a glass of water or something to drink during the session if you’d like, and perhaps have some tissue handy (because let’s face it, it’s therapy).

3) Lastly, maximize comfort! One of the benefits of online therapy is that you do have access to all the comforts of your home environment. Got pets? Include them in the hour. Get cozy as your appointment starts. Make use of the most comfortable seating available. Prop up with pillows, pile on the blankets, or grab the fan if it’s warm out. Wear comfy clothing, even your pj’s if you want to. Your therapist won’t mind! Having a nice scented candle, stress relief lotion, or a fidget toy on hand are other ways to make the most out of the online therapy experience.

There is no denying that mental health issues have increased dramatically in the last couple of years. With so many individuals struggling, access to mental health support is perhaps more important than ever. On-line therapy has made it just a little easier by removing some of the barriers to treatment that often come with in-person only services. On-line therapy has made it possible for those in remote areas, those who struggle to get out and about, those with limited mobility, and those without means of transportation to access the support they need. It is safe, secure, convenient, and effective. Although a slightly different experience than face to face in person therapy, following the tips above will help make your online therapy sessions comfortable and enjoyable. To learn more, call (805) 842-1994.

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