What You Need to Know Before Choosing Online Therapy

The decision to reach out for support when life isn’t going well or we’re struggling emotionally is a big one. It can feel awkward, intimidating, and overwhelming. And if you’ve never been to therapy before, it can be confusing to know what to look for. For many people, the perception of therapy is what we see on T.V. or in movies, with the client sitting on a couch and the therapist sitting across from them, notebook in hand, listening, nodding, and occasionally asking, “And how does that make you feel?”  That image, or some version of it, is “in-person therapy,” and that’s been the norm until recently. Now, however, there’s an alternative; that is, online therapy.

Online therapy, also referred to as “telehealth” or “virtual therapy,” has been on the rise since the 2020 pandemic. It’s proven to be as effective as in-person therapy in managing mental health symptoms and providing support for overall emotional well-being. It’s convenient, practical, and easily accessible. But before choosing online therapy, it’s helpful to understand more about it. Our team of online counselors in Simi Valley are here to support you in choosing the right fit for your journey.

How does Online Therapy work and what do I need?

If you’ve ever Facetimed a friend or family member or attended any kind of meeting or class “live” via your smartphone or computer, then you’re familiar with the concept of virtual connection. Online therapy is provided through a “virtual platform,” the technology that permits interaction in real-time. Perhaps the most well-known virtual platform is “Zoom,” but there are many others! If you’re considering online therapy, talking to the provider in advance about what platform they use for telehealth services is helpful. Many therapists do, in fact, use Zoom, others use Google Meet, and still others use platforms unique to their business, electronic records systems, or specific therapy apps.

Our practice of therapists in Simi Valley, Ca uses a secure HIPAA-compliant platform called Simple Practice. 

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!  Don’t be afraid to ask procedural questions. When and how will your therapist send the link and how do you 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? Knowing these things in advance reduces any pre-appointment jitters and makes for a more comfortable experience.

Finally, for online therapy, you’ll need access to a strong internet connection with wifi or an ethernet cable. If your own internet is unstable or shaky, you might want to find a location with better service (that will still allow for privacy). You’ll also, of course, need a smartphone, tablet, or computer with a webcam. The therapists at Simi Valley are there to walk you through any concerns on the “how to’s” of on-line therapy.

What should I look for in an online therapist?

As with all therapy, it’s important to know the provider is qualified. At Simi Psychological Group our online therapists are trained to provide high-quality, connected online and in-person therapy.

When considering online therapy, it’s a good idea to talk to your potential provider about the nature of your issues. Ask if they offer a free 10-15 minute consultation. Most therapists are happy to do this to ensure that it is a good fit for both of you. While online therapy is wonderful, there are some situations where it may not be the best option for someone. For example, many therapists prefer to treat people with severe or complex trauma in person. Similarly, when there are safety risks or suicidal ideation, in-person therapy may be more appropriate. Our therapists are happy to answer any questions you might have and help you determine if online therapy is right for you.

Lastly, as with 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.

woman sitting at a table using a laptop

Do I prefer my own private space over an office?

It might go without saying, but online therapy can take place anywhere you like. Many people really love the convenience and the flexibility of therapy from the couch…their couch, that is. If you are someone that really appreciates all the comforts of home, online therapy is for you! Sure, your therapist might have a beautiful office space, but sometimes you just want to be in your own space.

How do I prepare for an online therapy session?

Finding the right space for your online therapy is essential both from the privacy and security standpoint as well as for the quality of the overall experience. It’s important that you have access to a comfortable and quiet space, free of distractions.

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.

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’ll be using your phone (versus a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer) for your session, 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. Be sure to silence your phone and turn off notifications, especially if using your phone for the session.

If you’re feeling a little nervous, take a few deep breaths before the session. Play some music, stretch, or simply close your eyes for a minute or two. And just as you would for an in-person session, make sure you tend to any bodily needs before your online appointment. Use the restroom, 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).

woman holds hands to her chest while smiling at a laptop in front of her

Although a slightly different experience than face-to-face in-person therapy, online therapy has been embraced as a valid, effective, and convenient way to receive mental health support. It’s 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 or easy access to treatment to receive the support they need. And perhaps the best part of online therapy? Attending therapy sessions in your pajamas!

Simi Psychological Group offers Online Therapy at our Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and neighboring locations. Learn more here about our online therapists, and our mental health therapy practice. Our team of qualified professionals offers therapy for anxiety therapy, trauma, depression, and more! Contact us for more information at (805) 842-1994.