While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly played a role in this shift, the fact that it’s affordable, convenient, and anonymous has made a significant difference in the change. Millions of people are choosing one of the various top online therapy services to meet their mental health needs. But before you join them, there are some important things you should consider.
1. Do your homework
There are many options for teletherapy now. It is certainly not a one and done situation anymore. Options range from huge sites with thousands of therapists to individual practices that offer an online option. You should explore a bit and find what makes you comfortable. If it is a large site with lots of bells and whistles, there are many therapists to choose from. If you prefer a low-key team of local counselors, that is great too. The point is that just as you can search for an in-person option, online options are plentiful and there is one out there that can meet your personal needs.
2. Make your own choices
Many of the larger sites will assign you a therapist randomly after you fill out a general questionnaire. But in truth, if you do a bit of research, you can find one that feels right for you. On many of the sites the therapists list their specializations and their approaches, and you can often feel their tone just from reading their profile. If this option is afforded to you, then absolutely take advantage of the selection process. Just as you would in a face-to-face setting, be comfortable and confident with the choice you are making.
3. Navigate the platform
Once you have chosen the right site/therapist and are ready to begin, make sure you spend some time exploring the platform. If you haven’t read the Q&As, do that first, as well as learning how to navigate the different ins and outs of the site. In many cases you have the option of writing to your therapist daily (or more), while some have journal settings, activity prompts, and places to set goals. Learn about session lengths, pricing, and additional activities like podcasts of forums you can join.
4. Choose the right setting
When you are having a session with your therapist, choose a place where you won’t be distracted. You need to be focused and in touch with yourself and your thoughts. Don’t let others bother you while you are in your session. Whether you hang a sign on your door or use a sound machine so others won’t hear you (or vice versa), make sure that you feel safe and able to have an open conversation while not having to worry about being interrupted or distracted.
5. Check the technology
This is critical, especially for the different modes of sessions. If you are doing a video chat, make sure to do a video check prior so that you know it works and if you are opting for a phone call, set up the system so it will accept your phone number. Additionally, make sure to charge your phone, tablet, or computer so that it is available for the length of your full session.
6. Consider your body language
It is harder for your therapist to see and interpret your body language during your sessions. In order to account for that, consider bringing in notes about how you are feeling, especially in relation to your current mood. This is even more important if you are having a live session that is via chat or phone when the therapist cannot see you at all. A well-versed therapist can pick up on silences, voice tone, sounds, and other things that you might be surprised about, but the absence of body language is one thing that does differ online. Even during a video session, it is often hard for your therapist to see more than your head and upper half of your body.
7. Be present
Just like you would in a face to face session, focus on your reason for being there. Don’t look at your phone when your therapist cannot see you. Don’t multitask or try to fold laundry to get more things done at one time. Therapy is your time to focus on yourself and work through whatever is on your mind and it is critical to be in the moment.
8. Be comfortable
Have water, a blanket, your cat, or anything else that is soothing. It is important to feel safe and comfortable during a therapy session. You want to be in a mood to talk openly and safely, and setting the tone really helps make this possible. One of the benefits of doing teletherapy is having this option, so make sure to take advantage of it and create a setting that will allow for a successful and honest session.
9. Plan ahead
Don’t finish a session without scheduling your next one. If you know your schedule and already have your therapist’s attention, make sure to get your next appointment in the books. If possible, have a weekly session prearranged. But, in some cases, this won’t work. It is always easier when you have your therapist’s undivided attention rather than having to do it over text.
10. Advocate for yourself
You are your own biggest cheerleader. If you are not happy with your therapist after a few sessions, make a change. This is different from feeling the discomfort that comes about from being successful in therapy. It takes time and effort to make progress in therapy. You should know the difference between not connecting with a therapist and needing to transfer to someone else. This includes not wanting to spend the time doing the hard work it takes to progress in the treatment process. If you believe that the connection is the issue, make a change. On a site with thousands of options, that switch is as easy as clicking a button. If you are working with someone in a smaller setting, either look elsewhere or ask a friend or colleague for a referral. If that doesn’t work, then consider looking at the larger sites.
It’s In Your Hands
Online therapy is an excellent way to address your mental health or anything else that is essential to focus on in your life. It is reasonably priced, accessible, and the options are plentiful. There should be nothing holding you back from this wonderful opportunity, just be smart when it comes to being prepared!