Perhaps you’re considering online mental health therapy, but are wondering if it is as powerful as in-person therapy. During our current time of social distancing because of COVID-19, even many clinicians who normally only conduct in-person therapy have switched to online formats. Meeting online can offer better appointment availability, since we can select times that may not correspond with clinicians’ regular in-person office hours, such as early morning or evening appointment times. We may actually find some comfort from conducting therapy sessions online/at home, since we’re surrounded by familiar items – even family pets – rather than finding ourselves in the clinician’s office. Online therapy, also known as e-therapy or cyber-therapy, can be extremely effective, especially if you follow the tips listed below.
Find a quiet place in your home where you can set up your computer; make sure the internet connection is powerful and secure; select comfortable headphones if desired; let the remainder of the household know you’re carving out an hour for yourself and should not be interrupted during your online mental health therapy session.
Commit to your appointments
With online therapy, it can feel less formal; after all, you’re not leaving your home, you may be dressed more casually than you would if you were attending in-person therapy, and it may seem easier to cancel appointments. But if you want to heal, you must commit to your appointments and keep that time sacred for yourself. Treat your therapy appointment as you would any other necessary medical appointment.
Online therapy is your ‘safe’ place, a place where you should be honest with yourself and your therapist. Discuss the emotions you have difficulty expressing; this is the time to genuinely feel these emotions and air what you normally keep buried inside. With online therapy, bodily cues can be more difficult to read, so it becomes particularly important to expressly identify your emotions and reactions. Remember that your therapist is not your friend; they may not tell you what you want to hear. Growth can be painful, but it’s their job to tell you what’s accurate. Remember also that unless you are a clear and present danger to yourself or someone else, therapy requires strict client-clinician confidentiality, so what you discuss will remain private.
Keep the Focus on You
Online therapy can initially feel awkward, and when we feel uncomfortable, we may fill the silence with chatter. There’s no issue with beginning your therapy sessions with minutia or small talk, but both you and your therapist should remember that you’re there to heal something that is hurting. Be your own advocate and vocalize what you need. After initial greetings, do your best to delve in.
Have a Goal if Possible
most of us seek out therapy because we have identified a limitation or issue that we want to resolve or even just understand. Several years ago, I noticed that I was feeling quelling anxiety around tasks that historically never bothered me – driving on expressways or in heavy traffic, for example – and my world was shrinking because of these suddenly difficult activities. My goal in seeking therapy was to understand why these feelings were developing and then deal with the root cause to allow me to return to my normal routines. If you can, have a goal going into therapy. Your therapist will most likely share coping mechanisms and exercises; be mindful of practicing these tips between therapy sessions so you can get the most out of it.
If you feel that you could benefit from our mental health support groups at this time, please feel free to visit us at www.namiccns.org. We offer a multitude of resources and support groups and are here to help. Our services are always free. Please take care of yourself during these uncertain times, and please remember that you are not alone.