Written By: Lydia Proulx
You’ve made the decision to work on your mental health with a professional – Awesome! But, the world is strange out there now. What is starting therapy like, especially now that telehealth is the norm in many places?
What Can I Expect?
- If you’re someone who likes to talk to people and engage face-to-face, be prepared to feel differently after virtual therapy sessions than you would after a face-to-face conversation. For some young people virtual appointments don’t feel quite the same as in-person work. This doesn’t mean that it cannot be rewarding, challenging, or affirming therapy, just that regular feelings may not come up after a session, if you are someone who prefers in-person experiences. On the other hand telehealth is not the same experience for everyone, and some young people have found virtual appointments more comfortable and easier to access!
- When someone gets motion sickness, it’s because their sense of balance tells their brain that they are moving, while their sense of sight says they’re not- the brain gets confused. In a similar way virtual therapy will tell your brain that you’re having a face-to-face conversation – you can see a provider’s face, their surroundings, hear the background noises – but your brain will also probably be looking for other cues, like body language, direct eye contact, and subtle things like smells (if someone is cooking in your house, you may not associate that smell with therapy!). This mismatch of information might be confusing or emotionally draining, and even though you THINK you should feel like you always feel after talking to someone 1:1, it may feel like something is still missing. Take this in stride – stuff is hard right now, and it’s tricky for many of our brains to adjust to building or maintaining relationships through a computer screen rather than in person.
- You will likely use a website like doxy.me or a meeting application like Zoom. Check out the website of whatever platform your appointment is on to get a better sense of what to expect and learn how to navigate it! This will help your initial telehealth appointment go more smoothly- instead of taking time to figure out how to turn on the camera or login, you’ll be able to spend your full session working toward your wellness goals.
- Many providers are not single individuals working from very neat home offices. Many have their own kids or pets who may make noise or need their attention for a brief moment. If they are momentarily distracted, know it isn’t about you and they are just adjusting to this new reality too.
How Should I Prepare?
Check out our tips below! You can also reference this short checklist from SMI Adviser.
- Be sure your appointment is on your calendar or schedule!
- If you have to fill out intake paperwork, ask your provider how that works. Will you be able to fill out a PDF on the computer and send it back? Do you need access to a printer? Be sure to figure this step out a couple days BEFORE your appointment – some practices will not be able to work with you until you have all your consent forms and things signed!
- Have the link / call in number handy. If you’re using a video platform for the first time, plan to “arrive” a little early in case you need to download or update any software before your appointment.
- Bring a notebook, something to fidget with, or something to drink. Find a comfortable spot where you’re able to feel more at ease and have privacy. If you want, some platforms like Zoom let you choose a background to use, which may give you some more privacy. You can also choose to use headphones.
- Take a deep breath; first Sessions are tough person-to-person, and it may feel a little more awkward virtually.
- If you’re someone who reads body language during conversation, or feels comfortable with eye contact, recognize that those things may not be present in your sessions due to the virtual engagement.
Important things to consider with virtual therapy:
- Your own environment
- Can others hear you? Are you okay with that?
- Do you have reliable internet access?
- Do you have a computer, tablet, or phone that can use a web browser or video call app?
- Your safety/wellbeing
- Sometimes therapy brings up hard stuff. When you log out of your therapy session, pay attention to how you feel.
- Plan for where you might need after the session, perhaps
- Connection with a friend or family member (or not!)
- A walk to get some fresh air
- Additional quiet time by yourself
- Where does the chat go when the session is over?
- Where does the video go?
- Who has access to these things? Such as: the therapist, their office staff, people who work at the hosting service website?
- Is the service your therapist uses secure, or are you comfortable with an insecure connection?
- Get comfortable with security features of the platform you’ll be using! YouTube is full of tutorials. For example, you can “lock” a meeting on some platforms prohibiting others from joining after you start.
What resources and tips do you have for making a successful transition to telehealth?