Back in mid-March when New York began shutting down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many people quickly adjusted to phone, Facetime or Zoom sessions with their therapist. If you were anything like me at the time, I assumed that by the middle of the summer we’d all be back to in-person sessions. Now, as we stare down the final days of summer and uncertainty around work and school schedules, it seems that virtual therapy is here to stay. Many of us have not only adapted to virtual (telehealth) sessions but we have embraced them – despite the drawbacks. After five full months of sessions over Zoom, I’ve come up with some practical tips and suggestions to make the most out of your virtual sessions.
1. Scheduling matters more than ever before. If you’re working remotely and already on fifteen virtual meetings per day, don’t just add in your therapy wherever you have a 50-minute slot. Make sure you’re planning your therapy so that you can be as present as possible.
2. Remember the waiting room…or the drive? Just like in point #1, it’s tempting to fold in therapy with everything else without creating space before and after a session. Think back to your in-person sessions: what did you think about on your drive/walk to the office? What was it like waiting those few minutes before the session? Our minds and bodies need transition in and out of sessions in order to create a mindset for therapy.
3. Claim your personal space. If you’re home with a spouse or kids (and even pets) it is super important that you can focus on your session without barking, knocking or the sounds of dishes clattering in the background. Just like with other meetings, you might need to negotiate shared spaces. Can’t do that? With decent Wi-Fi or a hotspot, consider sitting outside if the weather is good.
4. Pull back the curtain…just a little. If the dogs bark or the cat crawls all over the keyboard during your session, just remember that both you and your therapist are navigating a new terrain where we are seeing glimpses into each other’s personal spaces. It can actually create a stronger therapeutic bond that when in the neutral office space.
5. Reset your inner “therapy” clock. One benefit of online therapy is that we no longer have to factor in travel time. One drawback is that our brains are still trying to orient to the feel of “virtual time.” Therapists “watch the clock” not out of boredom but to gauge the flow of the session. It’s helpful to have a clock within your view so that you can remember how much time is left. Also, you no longer have the five-minute warning when you hear the next client open the waiting room door.
6. Ask for what you need. Tired of Zoom? Need more than one weekly session? Can’t clearly hear your therapist? Ask if they might consider safely-distanced outdoor (and private) meetings. Suggest two 25-minute sessions per week. Put your hand up and say, “I’m sorry, what you’re saying is really important and think there might be a problem with your mic.” Therapists are navigating this new reality as well.
We’re all learning the nuances, limitations and benefits of virtual sessions as we go along. With a little creativity and a lot of intention, virtual therapy can be just as powerful and impactful as a trip to the therapist’s office.
Brandon Beachamp, LMHC, provides mental health counseling and therapy to the LGBTQ+ population of New York’s Hudson Valley – offering sessions remotely and in New Paltz, NY.
My thoughts and reactions to the world in which we live...completely biased and unfiltered.