With the advent of strong measures to protect Americans from the COVID19 virus, daily life is changing for most of us at lightening speed. Working from home, kids home from school, gyms closed, restaurants and bars closed, and keeping a six-foot bubble between you and the next person are all becoming common. The way we can do counseling and therapy is changing, too, but still readily available–and that’s a good thing, because who couldn’t use a little help with worry anxiety right now! Many people, both adults and children, are seeing their therapists right from the comfort of their own homes, using telehealth or teletherapy. Here are five tips to help you prepare yourself or your child for online therapy.
TELETHERAPY TIP #1: ARRANGE FOR PRIVACY
Please make sure you have a place to talk with your therapist where you will not be overheard or distracted. Try your in-home office, a living room separate from the family room, or perhaps a bedroom. One busy mom found the best place for her teletherapy sessions was in her own clothes closet! Do try to meet in the same place in your home for each session.
TELETHERAPY TIP #2: TAKE IT EASY—BUT NOT TOO EASY!
Find yourself a comfortable chair, perhaps an easy chair or a chair at a desk or table. It’s best not to lie on your bed or wander around the house while talking. While adults are encouraged to stay in their seat as much as possible, this may not be feasible for children doing teletherapy. Before your session, place a box of tissues near you and, perhaps, a glass of water or something else to drink (not alcohol, please!) Kids may need a snack as well.
TELEHTHERAPY TIP #3: PREPARE YOUR DEVICE FOR THE BEST EXPERIENCE
Shut down apps, reminders, and other programs that might be running on your device. Silence incoming calls and texts. You may wish to free your hands for note taking or therapy-related exercises by using earbuds or a headset. To get the best internet speed and connection, try turning your modem off and back on again.
TELETHERAPY TIP #4: SATISFY YOUR CURIOSITY
If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. Especially if you are used to meeting with your therapist in an office or consultation room, seeing her as just a head on a screen might feel pretty strange at first. It’s okay to ask your therapist where he is or what you are seeing behind her head in the background. This is all part of getting comfortable in a new virtual space.
TELETHERAPY TIP #5: HONOR THE TRANSITION
Meeting with your therapist is not just another phone call or online business meeting. You chose to put time, effort, and money into your therapy for a reason and you deserve to get the most out of it that you can. So give yourself a few minutes of buffer time both before and after the session. Ten or fifteen minutes before your teletherapy session, stop whatever you are doing. Get up, get out, and move a little bit. Maybe you walk up and down the block and wave to your neighbors from that good old six-foot bubble. Or maybe you do a couple of yoga poses or jumping jacks. Get a fresh glass of water or make a cup of tea. As you settle into your seat to wait for your therapist to begin the session, try taking an inhalation to the crown of your head and say to yourself: “I am ready.” Exhale all the way to your toes and say to yourself: “I am here.”
After the session, try not to just jump into the next thing. Stay in your seat, close your eyes, and just let the good of the session settle in for a good five minutes. By taking these extra few minutes, you are allowing all those busy neural circuits in your brain the time they need to integrate your experience and make it more fully and permanently yours. Now, smile, thank yourself for taking time for yourself and your healing and growth—and have a better rest of the day!
Marian Camden, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist in Colorado, specializing in child and family issues, particularly dealing with divorce and trauma recovery. Her website is https://camdencounseling.com/. To see her books for children, please visit https://camdenbookshop.com/