With COVID-19, teletherapy went from a niche service to a widespread practice in the therapy world. Given such a significant change, I thought it helpful to share a few tips on how clients can get the most out of their teletherapy sessions.
What device should I use?
- Use a laptop or computer with a camera and microphone. Many clients use their smartphones for teletherapy, which tends to work OK for individual sessions. With family and couples therapy, it’s best to have a laptop set up where the clinician can see and hear everyone in the same room. If you notice your clinician keeps asking family members to speak up or repeat themselves, you may want to consider an omnidirectional microphone; I’ve found inexpensive ones online.
- Optimize your internet. We are all pushing the limits of our home internet bandwidth! If you haven’t done so, test your internet speed. Be mindful of any dead spots in your house, and plan accordingly.
- Have a phone nearby. Luckily therapy requires a lot of thinking on your feet, so your clinician is prepped for the unexpected. If…wait no…when technology glitches happen, keep your phone nearby so you can continue the session.
Where should I have teletherapy?
- Maintain privacy. I suspect we are all learning a lot about the acoustics in our homes! Finding a private space for teletherapy can be tricky but also necessary. Many of my clients use headphones to increase the privacy of their sessions. Others sit in their car to avoid household members overhearing. If you head to the car for teletherapy, I’d strongly encourage you not to drive, which leads me to the next tip.
- Avoid distractions or interruptions. I have playfully called out more than one teen when I hear mysterious keyboard typing or see their eyes move off the screen to their phone during the session! I have also seen adult clients get distracted by emails, texts, or interrupting children. Stuff happens, we get it! If possible, I suggest you stick that “do not disturb” Post It note on the door, log out of your email, switch your phone to silent, and leave it face down or across the room. This time is for you; I’d encourage you to take full advantage.
- Don’t get too comfortable. I’ve noticed that some of my clients will talk with me while lying down in bed. While feeling comfortable is valuable, I fear this level of lounging affects the quality of our conversations. I recently heard a school administrator articulate that it feels just a little too intimate when kids attend virtual calls lying in their beds, and I agree. However, for every “rule,” there is an exception! The bedroom might be the best space for you to find privacy, and sitting on your bed doesn’t detract from teletherapy. I encourage you to be thoughtful about where you choose to be. You can also chat with your therapist about how your location affects the work you’re doing together.
Is there anything I should do to prepare for a session?
- Have needed supplies nearby. As I work with children, I often have them draw, so it’s nice to have art supplies and paper nearby. Many children and adolescents find it helpful to keep their hands busy while we talk. Having fidget toys, Legos, or coloring books in session can provide that right level of distraction. Sometimes I even have my adult clients write things down. If your therapist is like me, try to have the stuff you need on hand.
- Prepare mentally and emotionally. While being at home can help with scheduling, it may be harder to transition to an emotional space where therapy can be most effective. For children, a well-timed walk or playtime before tele-sessions can help them get those wiggles out. For adults, preparing for teletherapy may be as simple as closing work-related tabs and documents on their computer. If you find you’re having a tough time transitioning into a session you may want to consider rituals like journaling, lighting a candle, taking a few deep breaths, or making a cup of tea.
- Wear clothes! I laughed at the end of John Krasinski’s episodes of Some Good News web series where he stands, and we see his ridiculous boxers. While John can get away with this, you probably can’t! You don’t need to dress up for teletherapy (workout clothes are welcome!), but wearing something on top and bottom is advisable.