Online therapy isn’t quite the same as going in person, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as beneficial. In fact, many people find it easier to open up to a therapist over a webcam, telephone, or text message. And if you can’t access in-person therapy for whatever reason — location, physical health concerns, or lack of access to insurance, for example — then online therapy could be the perfect solution to help you overcome your issues and live a happier life.
But you need to know what to expect from online therapy, so you can make the most of it — and if you’ve done in-person therapy before, you should understand the differences and unique challenges that can crop up. Use these tips to get the most you can out of your online therapy, so you can use your time and money to maximum benefit.
Make Sure Your Tech Is in Order
You’ll need a tablet, laptop, or smartphone in order to do therapy online. Some therapists are willing to do therapy via voice call only, but you’ll probably form a stronger bond with your therapist, and get more out of the therapeutic relationship, if you can use a video call app to actually see your therapist while you’re talking.
Before your first appointment, make sure you have installed and know how to use whatever app or apps your therapist wants to use for your treatment. Some therapists like to use common teleconferencing software like Skype, Teams, or Zoom. Others may use an app designated by their practice or by the online therapy provider they’re working with. For example, popular online therapy platform Plushcare offers users a mobile app that they can use to share patient information with providers and consult with psychologists and psychiatrists. Make sure you have a registered account with any apps you need to use and that you know how to use them before your first session. Before every session, check that your devices are working properly. Have a backup method of contact, such as a regular phone call, so you can still connect with your therapist if the main app is down or you lose your internet connection mid-session.
Carve Out Space for Therapy
To make the most out of therapy, you need to be intentional about it and dedicated to doing the hard work — which may include some homework from your therapist. When doing therapy online, you have to make a point of carving out time to prepare mentally before your appointment, and time to process the session afterward.
You also need a physical space in which to conduct the session, and you don’t want to be doing it at the coffee shop down the street. Choose a private, quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted. Send the family out shopping for an hour if you have to. Make yourself comfortable and have a beverage and a box of tissues at hand.
Have Some Patience with Your Therapist
If you’re switching from in-person to online therapy with the same therapist, he or she might struggle a little bit to get used to the new technology and the new format. If you’re starting online therapy from scratch, it’s not uncommon to feel awkward during the first session, or even the first few sessions. Be patient as you both navigate the new format, but if you still feel uncomfortable after three sessions, you may want to consider getting a new therapist.
Talk More About How You’re Feeling in Session
One reason why online therapy can feel uncomfortable is that you’re not actually getting all the same body language cues you’d get in person, and that goes for your therapist as well. You’ll need to make sure you’re identifying and verbalizing any emotions that come up during the session, so that your therapist knows where you’re at and how to help you.
Take Full Advantage of the Digital Format
Going to therapy online means you have the opportunity to tailor your treatment to meet your daily needs via text or chat messaging or video or voice check-ins throughout the week. Talk to your therapist about using a combination of text, audio, and video to help you manage your emotions and work towards your goals in between sessions. For example, you might want to text your therapist for advice about a difficult situation you’re going through at the moment or a hard feeling you’re having, so you can get perspective in the moment. And your therapist can help hold you accountable for working towards your goals with daily check-ins via text or phone.
Of course, you need to respect your therapist’s time and the fact that he or she has a life outside of being your therapist. Get used to the idea that your therapist might not respond to texts or emails right away, and that he or she may want to put hard limits on communication outside of the regular session.
Online therapy can be a great tool to help you get back on your feet if trauma or mental illness is bringing you down. Make the most of the tools at your disposal, and you’ll be feeling like yourself again in no time.