Hopefully you were inspired to reach out and get support to take care of your mental health during this time of upheaval, uncertainty, and grief. For now, virtually (pun intended) all therapists are now meeting via telehealth and since most people either aren’t familiar or aren’t comfortable with this type of therapy, here are six things to keep in mind as you schedule your telehealth session with your therapist.
1. Get the right software (and hardware)
Ask your therapist which platform he or she is using and download the app onto your phone, tablet or computer. Make sure your camera works and has a clear enough picture of you. Find a place to put your device so you don’t have to hold it the whole time. It makes for a very jumbly picture if you are constantly moving around.
2. Use headphones
Along with having the right software, try to use headphones (with a mic). It helps to manage the volume of the session and it’s much easier to hear and understand each other if you’re using headphones. Most importantly, using headphones usually blocks out the background noise of your kids yelling, the dog barking or your spouse playing video games loudly.
3. Find a place where you will be comfortable and have privacy
Find a spot in your house where you are least likely to be interrupted, overheard or otherwise infringed upon. Get a pillow or a blanket to be extra comfortable and bring your water, a pen, some paper and/or something to fidget with (see number 6). The tricky part in my house is finding a spot that I won’t be interrupted that also has a strong wifi signal. You might have to test out a few spots in your home that hit all these criteria.
4. Look at the eyes, not yourself or the camera
The whole point of a video telehealth session (opposed to a phone call) is to be able to see the other person. Though it’s really tempting, do not spend the whole time looking at yourself. Trust me, you’ll get very self-conscious if you do. Try to look at the eyes of your therapist or at least at the camera. When you look into their eyes, you tend to forget, even momentarily, that you aren’t meeting in person.
5. Don’t feel like you need to fill the entire hour
Before any therapy session, many people think “what in the world am I going to talk about today”. In telehealth, this is no different. Do your best to avoid the pressure of trying to fill the whole hour with anecdotes or meaningful self-reflection. Just be you and talk about what is relevant today. If we’re following the rules by staying home, our lives are likely pretty boring. On that note, you may notice that some of your quirks (or ineffective patterns of thought or behavior) might be amplified and therapy can be a great way to explore why and how to change. If you really run out of things to say, it’s ok to say, “I think that’s all I have for today. Let’s schedule for next week.”
6. Allow for and expect some awkwardness
We are all new to telehealth. There are going to be bumps along the way and we all have to do out best to roll with what happens in a session. Your kid (or your therapists) kid might barge in demanding yet another snack. Technology might be glitchy. You might not have much to say. It’s all ok. Try to laugh about it or at least don’t beat yourself up about it. Following the tips above will cut down the potential for weirdness, but anything can happen. Reschedule and try again another day.