Is Online Counseling Right for Me?
Well, right now, in the midst of a pandemic, online counseling is right for everyone! As a therapist, my prediction is that one silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that online counseling is here to stay and will force some much-needed change in the mental health industry. Soapbox moment – there have long been major issues with people in rural or underserved areas not being able to access mental health services, but through transitions to online platforms for therapy, many of these barriers are eroding. There is MUCH work to be done for inclusivity in access to therapy, but the pandemic has propelled online counseling to the forefront when we discuss how to best, and safely, serve our clients. If you’re wondering if online counseling is right for you, here is a list of “best practices for telehealth appointments” that I share with clients. I encourage you to review it, and if these things feel “do-able” to you, online counseling may be right up your alley.
How to Most Effectively Engage in Online Counseling:
Online counseling can be an ideal way for us to engage in a therapeutic relationship, but it may take more “getting used to” for some. Some positives are that we remain in the comfort of our own home/room/space, we don’t have to drive, park, or wait in a waiting room, and we have no time lost in transition. Some negatives might be that we can’t “feel the energy” of the other person in the room, we could be interrupted, and there could be unforeseen technological glitches. Here are some suggestions for making each telehealth session as productive as possible:
- Find a space in your home/office that is quiet, preferably with a door that you can lock or at least close completely
- Preferably, use a computer or ipad for sessions rather than a phone (it’s more stable, less movement, hands-free.) But a phone also works!
- Silence your phone’s notifications (but use your phone to do the following…)
- To create “white noise,” there are apps that you use – I like a free app that is simply called “White Noise” – turn this on and place it near the door to help maintain your privacy. This way, you’re also not distracted by having your phone nearby
- Log in for our session a few minutes before the scheduled start time
- Find somewhere in your space in which you can feel comfortable but not TOO comfortable (no laying down on the bed; you’re here to work!)
- Position your computer on a desk, table, chair, so that I can see you from the chest area up. It’s really important for me to see your face clearly (and you, mine!)
- It’s ok to have a drink nearby, but it’s preferable not to eat, smoke, etc. during sessions
- Try not to plan something for immediately following our session. Give yourself at least a 15-20 minute break to decompress before you’re off to the next part of your day
The reality is this – though there are some in-person things that simply cannot be replicated in online counseling, the benefits of online counseling, especially versus not engaging in counseling because you simply can’t get to it, far outweigh the negatives! For many people seeking counseling, the steps that must be taken in order for that in person connection to happen are manifold, onerous, and can stand in the way of the someone actually following through with getting therapy. Studies are showing us that for most therapy modalities, even ones that you wouldn’t think could work, are extremely effective in the online counseling setting.
If the items listed above sound manageable to you, you may want to consider finding online counseling. Many of us offer free consultations so that you can get an idea about whether or not you want to work together before you even have to commit to paying someone. And that’s a pretty good deal! I offer online counseling in PA and MD, focusing on the Frederick, MD, and Hagerstown, MD communities of Maryland, and Franklin County, PA. If “the overwhelm” is taking a toll on you, it might be time to ask for help.
I get asked all the time about finding a therapist and how to go about it, what kinds of options there are, etc. My next post will focus on the search for a therapist and the options that are available to you based on your personal history/needs “fit,” and on what you’re thinking about in terms of seeing therapy as an investment, “finances.”
Tune in next week!