How to prepare for an online psychotherapy session.

Karolina Fotyga
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So your therapist offered you online therapy sessions. It might be because it’s the way they usually work, because you needed it or due to the current – corona virus-related circumstances.

I’m guessing you might have a couple of questions in your head. Let me tell you a bit more about how to best prepare before your first meeting online. All so you can feel more comfortable and at ease.

Online sessions used to be one of the ways to participate in psychotherapy. Nowadays – due to everything going on around the virus – it’s the only one.

Below you’ll find a short guide on how to prepare yourself and your surroundings for the video call – in this case – a  therapy or a coaching session.

 

confidentiality/security/safety

 

They should be your priority – on many different levels. First, you need to:

– Make sure you can feel safe in a place you chose for your conversation. You don’t want your husband/mom/kids to listen to whatever you want to talk about. It’s not just any conversation – you need to feel confident that you can speak freely.

– Choose a place where you can be alone, a room that has a door you can close.

– Ask your family members to not disturb you during those 50 minutes.

– If for some reason it’s not possible, a car often seems to be a good enough option.

– One of the ways to ensure your peace of mind is a Bluetooth speaker/Alexa/regular radio whatever you might have. You simply put it behind the closed doors and turn on some music or white noise. Works like a charm. Just make sure it’s not *too* loud.

– Make sure you use a secure app (Skype/FaceTime and similar are not considered secure for these purposes). Ask your therapist what system they use. It might be Zoom, Doxy.me, SimplePractice or other – these are all secure options. Yes there have been some articles about Zoom recently, but let’s keep in mind – it’s often us who might be the weak link of the system. We need to first learn the app/system if we want to use it. Zoom – if used correctly is a safe app – for both parties.

 

reliable/stable internet connection

– Sometimes your WI-FI might be the best option. Other times – especially now – when your family is at home with you learning or working – you might think about using your 4G/5G/LTE phone internet if you have enough data in your package.

– To ensure the best and uninterrupted quality of the call it’s best to turn off all the other running apps and programs.

– An app that will help you check the quality of your internet is SpeedTest by Ookla. In my experience, the most important is the upload speed – usually around 5Mbps accounts for a great quality of your video call.

 
 

Your desk, equipment and your closest surroundings

 

– It doesn’t really matter whether you use a computer or a tablet. As long as the screen has a decent size – you’re all good. A phone, on the other hand, might be too small. Remember it’s not just any conversation. Your therapist wants to really SEE you. They need to be able to notice your facial expressions, the way you talk and use your hands when you speak. It’s all very important part of the process since as you know – the majority of our communication is attributed to the nonverbal.

– Speaking of seeing. The best level for the camera – is eye level. You don’t need any special holder /mount for your tablet or computer though. A stack of books is good enough.

– Sometimes it’s useful to use headphones. This one is really up to you – sometimes it helps with the quality of the audio, should anything be wrong with that. It may also give you a sense of privacy.

– Make sure the place you will be sitting at with your computer/tablet is comfortable. Not too comfortable though;) We don’t want you lying on your sofa, or taking a meeting in your pyjamas. This is still a professional meeting – even though in your home setting.

– If you’re not sure what to wear to the session – if something is appropriate – imagine yourself in any other official/work setting. It can be at the doctor’s/at your school/post office – somewhere out where you meet people. Just copy and paste yourself there for a second – does it still feel ok?

– Make sure the place you’re planning to sit has a decent amount of light in front of you. It’s important that we see each other well. If the light is coming from behind – your face will be all dark. A trick I personally recommend is a make-up mirror (one with lights;)  and/or a desktop lamp.

– Silence your phone so that it doesn’t distract you.

– You may prepare something to drink and maybe some tissues should you need them.

– Make sure not to use any mind-altering substances before the session (that means no alcohol and/or drugs). We want you to be able to think clear thoughts and experience various emotions during the session.

And that’s it. The first try is always surprising but further down the road you might find this way of speaking with your therapist quite… normal:)

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What do you think?

Ever tried going through therapy online? What was surprising for you? Maybe I should add a point or two? Let me know:)

 
how to prepare for an online psychotherapy session

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