We’re sheltering in place to protect our health and the health of our communities from the spread of coronavirus. And that’s meant adapting our normal routines—for work, school, exercise, socializing, and more—so we can keep them going from home. For many of us, that has also included shifting therapy from in-person to video or phone sessions.
When you’re used to meeting one-on-one or in a group for therapy, teletherapy can be an adjustment. But with a little preparation, it can also be just as successful.
Here are some tips for making the most of online therapy and phone therapy sessions:
1. Create privacy.
With kids home from school and partners home from work, we know: Privacy can be a challenge. But it’s possible. If it feels safe for you to disclose to the people you live with that you’re in therapy, make a plan with them. (If it doesn’t feel safe to have that conversation, talk with your therapist to plan and problem-solve together.) Let your partner, kids, and/or housemates know when your therapy appointment will be, and where in the house you plan to talk with your therapist. Together, make a pact to maintain privacy and space for your session. That includes physical space—a quiet room where you can be alone with the door closed is best—and social space, free from interruptions. During your session, you can try wearing headphones, so that only you can hear your therapist’s voice. And while most of us don’t have white noise machines, you might even try playing a white noise playlist (Spotify and YouTube have lots of options) from a portable speaker outside the room where your session will be. It will help muffle your voice from the outside.
2. Minimize distractions.
Minimizing distractions goes hand-in-hand with creating privacy. Talk with your partner, kids, and/or housemates to set expectations around noise in the house, childcare, et cetera. Make your therapy space cozy and comfortable too. Bring in a comfy chair, adjust the lighting, make sure the room temperature feels good, and have water and tissues handy. If you’re doing a video session, you might find that seeing your own face on the screen is distracting or makes you feel self-conscious. If that’s the case, try covering that part of the screen with a PostIt or a piece of paper and some tape.
3. Communicate your needs.
Sheltering in place is new for everyone—including your therapist. At the start of your session, check in with each other about how your needs may have changed since the last time you talked, or how your space may affect the session. Maybe your internet has been spotty. Maybe you’ve been feeling cooped up and need to stand while you talk. Or maybe your kids just can’t resist the temptation to knock on the door. We’re all figuring this out a day at a time. The more your therapist knows about your circumstances that day, the better.
4. Make adjustments as needed.
With family, housemates, and work all in the same space, your regular appointment day, time, and length might not be optimal anymore. If that’s the case, talk to your therapist about changing up scheduling, or even the length of your session. Two 30-minute sessions a week, for example, could be more realistic than one hour-long session, at least for now.
5. Build in a buffer.
When you meet with your therapist at their office, the walk to your car or commute home after gives you important time to decompress and reflect. Try to build in some time after your session at home to gently transition to the next part of your day, whatever that may look like. Take a couple minutes to journal or quietly meditate. Listen to a calming song. Stretch. Check in with yourself before you get back to work or into the flow of the household.
And keep in mind: This period of social isolation isn’t easy. Keeping up with therapy at home is a small victory for maintaining normalcy—and for making your mental health a priority.
If you work with a clinician at Midwest Counseling and have any questions or concerns about how to make the most of your teletherapy sessions, please reach out to your therapist directly. Or contact Rose Metivier: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to help.