Self-isolating? Have you thought of Online therapy? 

For a few weeks now we have had success in providing Online Therapy due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, this decision to switch from face to face therapy to Online Therapy was not easy or ideal, but a necessary change to help others who are struggling to cope with Coronavirus anxiety. 

 Most people struggle with opening up to therapists, our hope is that it would found easier to be vulnerable if I could hide behind a screen. Finding that you will be able to disclose more, and as a result, it deepened our therapeutic relationship.

If you’re looking to start Online Therapy in the unforeseeable future, it can be a jarring transition, we hope this article will help you decide to try it out. While it can be a big adjustment, online therapy can be an amazing and worthwhile support system — particularly in a time of crisis.

So how do you make the most of it?

Consider these tips as you make your transition to Online Therapy.

1. Carve out a safe space and regular time slots for therapy

One of the most mentioned benefits of online therapy is the fact that you can do it any time, anywhere. Regular weekly or fortnightly sessions using Virtual FaceTime chatting on an online secured internet zoom platform, has proven to be just as good as face to face sessions with a therapist.

Be aware, distractions are never ideal when you’re trying to talk in private — and therapy is rigorous, difficult work sometimes! If you’re self-isolating with another person, you could always ask them to wear headphones or take a walk outside while you do therapy. Make sure you’re prioritising therapy and doing it in an environment that feels safest for you.

2. Expect some awkwardness at first

Over the years wev’e tried Skype, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp and Zoom. But no matter what platform we use or how tech-savvy we are, it’s still going to be a different experience from face to face so don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t feel like we are “in-sync” right away.

It can be tempting to think that some discomfort or awkwardness is a sign that online therapy isn’t working for you, but if you can keep an open line of communication with your therapist, you might be surprised by your ability to adapt!

It’s also normal to “grieve” the loss of in-person support, especially if you and your therapist have worked together offline before. It’s understandable that there could be frustration, fear, and sadness from the loss of this type of connection. These are all things that you can mention to your therapist as well.

3. Be flexible with the format of your therapy

We use Zoom.us a secured video conferencing platform using a combination of messaging, audio, and video, over a webcam, freely accessed either on your phone, Ipad, laptop, notebook or computer.

For example, if you’re self-isolated with your family, you may rely on messaging more frequently as not to be overheard by someone and have as much time as you need to write it. Or if you’re burnt out from working remotely and staring at a screen, voice or instant messaging may feel better for you. Video Chats are just like being in the same room with each other, plus being able to share each others desktop.

One of the benefits of Online Therapy is that you have a lot of different tools at your disposal. Be open to experimenting!

4. There are unique benefits of Online Therapy

There are some things you can do with online therapy that you can’t necessarily do in-person.

For example,  you can’t bring your dog or cats to an face to face therapy session — but it’s been known to introduce to the therapist your furry companions over webcam.

We like to send mental health and wellbeing articles that have resonated with us by email, in addition to handouts, exercises, diary’s and worksheets for us to talk about later. Being creative with how you use the tools available to you, can make online therapy feel a lot more engaging.

5. Practice naming your emotions more explicitly

If you’ve been in in-person therapy  before, you may be used to your therapist observing your bodily cues and facial expressions, and sort of “intuiting” your emotional state.

This is why it can be really beneficial to practice naming our emotions and reactions more explicitly. For instance, if your therapist says something that strikes a nerve, it can be powerful to pause and say, “When you shared that with me, I found myself feeling frustrated.” 

Similarly, learning to be more descriptive around our emotions can give your therapists useful information in the work that we do. Rather than saying “I’m tired,” we might say “I’m drained/burnt out.” Instead of saying “I’m feeling down,” we might say, “I’m feeling a mix of anxiety and helplessness.”

These are useful skills in self-awareness regardless, but online therapy is a great excuse to start flexing those muscles in a safe environment. We can teach you how to communicate this over the video platform.

6. Be willing to name what you need, including your expectations from Online Therapy

With COVID-19 in particular, an active pandemic means that many of us — if not all — are struggling with getting some of our most fundamental human needs met.

Whether that’s remembering to eat and drink water consistently, grappling with loneliness, or being fearful for yourself or loved ones, this is a difficult time to be a “grownup.”

Taking care of ourselves is going to be a challenge at times, feelings of anxiety, isolation, depressed will come up. It can be tempting to invalidate our responses to COVID-19 as being an “overreaction,” which can make us reluctant to disclose or ask for help.

However, as experienced therapists we are working with clients every day who undoubtedly share your feelings and struggles. You aren’t alone.

Some things that might be helpful to bring to your therapist during this time:

  • Can we brainstorm some ways to help me stay connected to other people?
  • I keep forgetting to eat. Can I send a message at the beginning of the day with my meal plan for the day?
  • I think I just had my first panic attack. Could you share some resources for how to cope?
  • I can’t stop thinking about the coronavirus. What can I do to redirect my thoughts?
  • Do you think my anxiety around this makes sense, or does it feel disproportionate?
  • The person I’m quarantined with is impacting my mental health. How can I stay safe?

Remember that there’s no issue too big or too small to bring to your therapist. Anything that’s impacting you is worth talking about, even if it might seem trivial to someone else.

7. Don’t be afraid to give your therapist feedback

A lot of therapists who are making the shift to Online Therapy are relatively new to it, which means there will almost certainly be hiccups along the way. Online therapy itself is a more recent development in the field, and not all clinicians have proper training on how to translate their in-person work to a digital platform.

So if a platform is cumbersome to use? Let them know! If you’re finding that their written messages aren’t helpful or that they feel too generic? Tell them that, too. As you both experiment with online therapy, feedback is essential to figuring out what does and doesn’t work for you.

So if you can, keep communication open and transparent. You might even set aside dedicated time each session to discuss the transition, and what has and hasn’t felt supportive for you.

Don’t be afraid to try something different, talk to us ask for what you need and expect, and be willing to meet us halfway as we do this work together as a team.