Telehealth (remote healthcare by means of communicating online) is a new reality while we social distance to keep COVID-19 from spreading. As an addiction treatment professional, I have had to master the technology quickly as well as bring my clients along on the learning curve. Often, clients experience a bit of fear or anxiety about taking their treatment online, but as a clinician, it is my goal to ensure they get the most out of their session. I hope that by answering some common questions I can help you feel better prepared your next virtual therapy session.
How Do I Prepare for a Virtual Session?
Attempting to make sense of this new experience at the last minute could increase your anxiety, so it’s always best to prepare ahead of time. Make sure your device is charged to 100%. Make sure your technology meets the specifications for the platform. If you aren’t a tech savvy person, and feel totally lost, get in touch with your therapist in advance to review how to sign on to the platform. You can ask if they have time to practice this prior to your appointment if this will decrease your own anxieties.
Figure out where you will be comfortable and assured of privacy. This is a time to gift yourself a sacred place. If you’re using your car because home has other people within earshot, find a place to park with a view that calms you. If you don’t have Wi-Fi, park in a parking lot near a business that has free Wi-Fi. If you’re in a room with a door at home, set a boundary with your family members or roommates that you’re not to be disturbed for the next hour. Dress as you would for an office visit. Find a comfortable chair to sit in, as opposed to laying on your bed. Have a pad of paper and pen available if you want to jot down notes. Have tissues and water available, just as you would for an in-office appointment. This will help you focus on the business of therapy and the work you’ll be doing. Prior to the appointment, take some time to prepare mentally. Most people prepare on the commute to their therapy appointment. With telehealth you may be attending directly from life. Take some deep breaths.
What Should I Do During My Online Therapy Session?
Arrive on time. Speak directly into the screen. Start by sharing with your therapist how it feels to be doing telehealth versus meeting in the office. Be honest. If you’re anxious, say it. Let the therapist guide you in being comfortable with the platform and with this new type of therapy. This may be a more intense and more tiring method of therapy than in-person therapy. Staring into a screen for an hour may be challenging on your eyes. If you’re feeling tense or tight, try moving around in your chair, or stretch your arms or spine from time to time. Let your therapist know throughout the session what you are feeling and what you are experiencing. These sessions can feel a bit more intimate, as you’re giving your therapist a view into your home/car. You’re also getting a view into a new personal space of your therapist. It’s normal for this experience to feel different.
What Should I Do After My Telehealth Session Finishes?
After the session is over, breathe. Take some time to reorient to life as you would if you were transitioning from your in-office appointment to your next activity. If you saw things you could do differently at the next session to improve your experience, write them down so you can review them prior to your next session. Praise yourself for taking on this journey virtually—a journey that’s hard enough in person!