As the virus continues to rage on and be a persistent threat to our safety, health and freedom, many therapist including myself are sticking to teletherapy. I think about what this would be like 20-30 years ago when we weren’t so technologically advanced, and feel grateful all this is even possible!
Teletherapy has undoubtedly been a learning curve for therapists and clients alike, and there are a few things that can be game-changers to help it feel more natural and less, well, weird.
1. Finding a Good Spot to Do a Video or Phone Session
This is often the hardest thing to do if you don’t live alone. If a solo room isn’t an option, closing the toilet lid in a bathroom or finding a closet with comfortable seating can be considered. If nowhere inside your house works, we can start to get creative. Can you sit in your car? The garage? Patio? See number 3.
2. Privacy and How to Work Around Close Quarters
If you’ve ever been in to see me at my office, you’ll know I like to use “white noise” to create privacy. Say you’re in your bedroom for a video session: if you have more than one device, you can use one for the video platform and the other to play a white noise youtube video. I like to place the white noise machine by the door inside, but it works well outside the door too if you can trust it won’t be bothered.
3. Internet Speeds and Connectivity Concerns
Probably the worst thing that regularly happens is a client will be on a roll and be talking about some big and important topics, and then…. the phone emits a pathetic robotic din and I, the clinician, look on in horror as the client doesn’t appear to be able to hear my efforts to let them know I can’t hear them. SO! Let’s talk internet speed. You can google internet test speed and easily get a read on what your WiFi is doing. Bare minimum internet speeds for a video session are 1-2 mps but higher is ideal. Make sure to test where you’re doing your session (i.e. you car in the driveway).
4. Tip for Optimal Device Performance
One of the best tips I’ve learned is that devices, like our brains, struggle when they are doing too much or haven’t had a break in a while. Before every session, I close out all the apps, tabs, etc. that aren’t needed and then I restart my phone/computer. I’ll even do this if I lose connection during a session!
5. How to be Comfortable During a Session
The first thing that comes to mind is that many report that having a thumbnail of their face ranges from annoying to downright distracting. Have a post-it note handy to cover it so you feel less self conscious. Make sure you have a chair that is comfortable for the entirety of session. Feel free to get up and stretch, but try not to pick up your phone or computer and walk around, as some therapists get motion sick and this can make us nauseous. Prep for a session by getting enough water and/or coffee and use the bathroom so you can maximize your time.
6. Teletherapy Etiquette: Bathroom
I have not had any of these things happen (thank goodness), but it’s helpful to set some ground rules. The first one is, please don’t use the bathroom mid-video or phone session (seems like it goes without saying but apparently it has been happening). In general, please stay clothed.
7. Teletherapy Etiquette: Alcohol/Drug Use
While I am not in the business of judging you, please understand that in the state of Colorado, therapists can’t do therapy with someone under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Even if we’re doing a session during “happy hour” time, please note that just like you wouldn’t bring a glass of wine to session, that a therapist is legally obligated to stop a session if this occurs. Same goes with marijuana, don’t smoke before or during a session. Aside from the legal part, you probably will get more out of the session anyway sober. If this is tough for you, perhaps talking to a therapist who specializes in this area would be helpful.
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