Eight Tips to Make the Most of Online Therapy

Here in San Francisco, we’ve all been “sheltering in place” for at least a week now. We’re trying to settle into the new normal, even as we also expect that things will keep changing and creating a constantly evolving sense of normal. 

Part of that change has been a switch from in-person therapy to online sessions, for me and for every therapist I know. While I’ve had some experience with this mode of working, it’s new to a lot of people and some folks have been encountering some bumps during this adjustment period. With that in mind, here are some tips that could help you make the most out of your video therapy sessions:  

1. Give it a chance. Some people have a knee-jerk reaction to video and shut down the option before giving it a try. Since we’re all stuck with this for at least a couple more weeks (but probably longer), you owe it to yourself to give it a try before writing off the possibility of therapy altogether. 

2. Find a private spot. Negotiate with your roommates for 45 minutes of privacy and relative quiet. Time your session with your spouse’s ability to take the kids for a walk. Put a sign on your door to remind folks not to knock for the next hour. Whatever you can do to make sure you feel safe that you won’t be interrupted and can really dive into the material that matters to you. 

3. Do a test run. If the platform your therapist is using is new to you, spend a few minutes before session checking it out and doing any trouble shooting necessary. Many platforms give the option of doing a test call or checking your video and audio connections and your internet speed to make sure you are in good working order technologically. 

4. Have a “plan B.” If the video call is glitchy or delayed, have a plan in mind or an agreement with your therapist about a back-up (phone, a different platform, etc) so you don’t have to use session time figuring that out. 

5. Negotiate wifi. If multiple people in your house are using internet at once and that’s making it hard to have a smooth session, see if people can stay off streaming services for the hour of your call. 

6. Silence. Take a moment to silence devices you don’t need, turn off phone or laptop notifications that will distract you, close browser tabs, etc. When the session is going, maximize your video screen so you can’t see other programs, apps, or browser tabs. Support yourself in staying focused on just your therapy session. 

7. Create a pre-session ritual. Once you have all your technology and privacy needs taken care of, try to take a few moments to get yourself centered and into a therapy headspace. Take a few deep breaths, experience the quiet, review your journal for the week, think about how you want to use your session time. 

8. Revisit your goals. While you might feel compelled to talk about your COVID19 anxiety for some or even most of your session, you don’t necessarily have to pause your longer-term therapy goals during this time. The slower pace of life, the extra time now that you are doing less, the global focus on individual and communal health — these conditions can actually create an environment for some deep therapy work to thrive, even on video!