Online therapy can be a great option if you need help coping with anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, insomnia, trauma, or other mental illness, but don’t want to risk spreading or contracting COVID-19. It also brings different options to those who live too remotely to access traditional therapy, or even those who live in small towns or rural areas where there aren’t a lot of therapists practicing.
But before you start online therapy, you should know what to expect, so you can make the most of your treatment. Therapy is a huge, fundamental part of self-care, but doing therapy online can come with more homework than traditional in-office therapy. Here’s what you should know before you get started.
1) You’ll Need to Verbalize Your Emotions More
You may already be pretty good at talking about your feelings, especially if you have done in-person therapy before. But you’ll need to express your emotions verbally more than you may have been used to in face-to-face sessions. And if you’re starting therapy for the first time online, you should try to verbalize any feelings you have about what you’re discussing or what the therapist is telling you.
That’s because when you’re talking over a webcam, much of your nonverbal communication doesn’t actually get through. Your therapist will be less able to read your emotions over a webcam than in person. If you’re doing therapy by phone, with no video at all, or over text messaging, then you’re not sending any nonverbal signals. Identifying and expressing your feelings in words will help your therapist know how to help, and learning to express your feelings is a big part of therapy for most people, anyway.
2) You’ll Need to Build in Time to Prepare and Time to Decompress
With no commute to a therapist’s office to make time for, it’s easy to fall into the trap of sitting down at your device and logging into your therapy app the minute your session is supposed to begin, and then getting up and getting on with your day as soon as it’s over. But you need time to prepare yourself mentally for your session, and to process your feelings and decompress a little afterward.
Try to dedicate a space in your home for therapy, so you can sit down there 20 minutes before your session starts and get into the right headspace to tackle your issues. Write down a list of the symptoms you’ve been struggling with since your last session, and any other issues you want to remember to discuss. Include info on your therapeutic goals and any progress or setbacks you’ve experienced since your last session. After your session, leave yourself half an hour to take a walk, do some knitting, or play some Tetris to help your brain process the session.
3) You Should Be Prepared for Technical Issues
Technical issues happen, and it’s inevitable that you’re going to have some crop up in the middle of a session eventually. Always have a backup means of contacting your therapist, so you can continue your session if your webcam dies or your internet connection drops. Most people plan to speak on the phone as a backup, or communicate via text or instant messaging.
4) You May Need to Try Different Providers to Find One You Click With
This one is true whether you’re going to therapy in person or online. There are many reasons why you might not make progress with a specific therapist -- maybe your personalities clash, maybe you feel your therapist doesn’t understand your problems, or maybe you just can’t feel comfortable with him or her. It’s normal to feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but if you don’t feel like you’re making some progress toward your goals and building some trust by the third session, it may be time to switch to another provider. If you’re going to online therapy in Missouri, you can use a telemedicine provider that makes it easy to switch therapists.
5) You Should Prioritize Your Privacy in Sessions
Confidentiality and privacy are always important in therapy, whether you’re doing it online or in person, but online, you don’t have the benefit of getting away from your family and roommates to go to an office where you know no one is listening in. Make sure you have privacy for your sessions, so you can talk about whatever you want without worrying about eavesdroppers. If you have to, ask your family or roommates to make themselves scarce during your therapy hour, so you can focus on tackling your problems.
Online therapy can give you access to a full range of treatment options to help you deal with stress, trauma, or mental illness -- and without the hassles of commuting to an office and possibly getting or giving someone COVID. Just know what to expect, so you can make the most of each session.