Are you wondering what the experience would be like of doing teletherapy while isolating yourself physically from others?
I have been doing teletherapy with international clients for a while and it has been very effective – I love it, as do my clients! For some, there is an added benefit of experiencing the comfort of being in one’s own environment among the calming objects. Prior to becoming a therapist, I spent 8 years working remotely for international financial institutions, building relationships with teammates all over the world from my home office. We were then limited to voice connections, but it worked well nevertheless. Using video chat really enhances the teletherapy experience, since 50% of our brain is used for our vision. In online counseling, even when we are physically apart, we can feel as connected as we would like to be in our hearts.
Trying Something New – Online Counseling
In these challenging and uncertain COVID-19 times, continuing your regular therapy can be very grounding and calming. While the teletherapy experience is a little different from face-to-face, it helps to approach the whole online process in the spirit of adventure. Our brains are incredibly resilient and enjoy experiencing new things to adapt to. All of the specialties that I offer translate well to teletherapy – Career Counseling, Financial Therapy, Brainspotting Therapy, ADHD Counseling, and Gottman Method Couples therapy.
Preparing for the Video Therapy Session
Prior to our virtual therapy session, here are some steps you can take to improve the experience:
- Pick a quiet and private place (it could be inside the car, if necessary) that allows you to have the same level of concentration and openness you show in our in-person sessions.
- Ensure quality Internet access either on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or a desktop
- Ensure decent lighting – so that we can see each other clearly. It helps to position a lamp behind the computer/camera.
- Have a box of tissues nearby – since the ones in my physical office won’t be accessible.
- Have a Post-It note nearby – I use one to cover my own face on my screen to reduce the distraction of seeing myself talk, and I recommend the same for you. This is probably the most annoying part of teletherapy – seeing yourself talk and express emotions. People are automatically drawn to studying and judging their own images critically. When we are in session face-to-face, we don’t see ourselves in the mirror every few seconds, and it’s not therapeutic. Sticky notes really help manage this issue.
- Set your device (laptop/smartphone/tablet) in such a way that the camera is at your eye level (I use a raised stand for my laptop) – so that it feels like we are interacting face-to-face.
- In order to make eye-contact, do not stare into the camera – it won’t look like eye contact and you may lose important facial and body cues. Instead, take your chat window out of full-view view and reduce the browser size so that it takes up to 2/3 of your screen. Then, center the window under your camera. This way, when we look at each other, it will feel like we are looking in each other’s eyes.
- Headphones might be helpful for your privacy – you can either use them to listen to the music or to me.
- It might help to sit at a table, so that you don’t have to hold all these things in your lap.
- Discuss, or create, a “Privacy Agreement” with your family members (or people living in your home who are privy to services) to adhere to, regarding respecting the time as therapy time, not barging in or interrupting a session, and not listening in by the door, etc., when the session is taking place.
- Consider downloading a white-noise app and having that play by your door, while your are in session.
Brainspotting in Teletherapy
If we are doing Brainspotting together in video sessions, here is how you can prepare ahead of time:
- Have stickers nearby to mark your Brainspots.
- Download Brainspotting music to a separate device and set it to a very low volume. You can find Brainspotting or Bilateral music on YouTube or iTunes. Please contact me for more options.
- Have something pointer-like nearby – it could be a long pencil, a cat toy with a long handle, a knitting needle, a grill implement, or any kitchen gadget with a long handle. You can also purchase your own pointer – I use a telescopic handheld flagpole.
- Prepare a large wide-mouth jar or a vase with similar characteristics and fill it about half-way with pebbles or beans. A stable pencil holder can also work. You can use it to hold your pointer, so that you don’t have to hold it for yourself.
- For one-eye goggles, you can use a pirate patch, an eye mask for sleeping, a bandana, or an old pair of glasses with tape or a folded index card covering one eye.
What to Expect at the Start of Each Online Session
At the beginning of each video therapy session, I will confirm your physical location (this is part of teletherapy ethics) and ask you who else is in the house. I may ask you to take me for a “spin”. This is where you can rotate the camera to show me around your entire room. I will also briefly assess if you are “appropriate” for teletherapy from a safety and mental health perspective. We will always have a back-up plan in place to connect by phone if there is a technology glitch. So please keep your phone nearby.