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Adults, Covid-19

Making the Most of Tele-therapy

5 Tips to Optimize your Tele-Therapy Experience

Ever wonder how to make your tele-therapy session better? Can tele-therapy have the same benefits as in person? YES!! Since tele-therapy is here to stay, here are 5 ways to make the most of your tele-therapy sessions.

1. Be in a physically safe location for tele-therapy

Therapy sessions, no matter where they are held, can bring up difficult emotions. In-person sessions are done in an office setting where it is already prepared to provide a safe place for those emotions to be expressed. That could look like having a comfortable place to sit to a tissue box to not having lots of items to throw/break around you. And not having distractions or people around you to create avoidance of those emotions.

It’s important to curate this for yourself for a tele-therapy session.  Provide for yourself the same safe setting that you would have in a therapy office. This means not having sessions in your car while you are driving or even pulling off to the side of the road. Ensure that you are in a place where you can experience your emotions without having to moderate your reactions to fit the needs of the location you are in. This way, we can spend our time focusing on the deeper stuff rather than safety planning or running damage control.

2. Find a private location for tele-therapy

Privacy is essential for you to be able to feel safe being vulnerable in sessions. If you are worried about being overheard or watched, it’s more likely that your guard will be up and you will be less authentic. This happens subconsciously even when we think we “don’t care” who hears us. Therapy is a time where you can and should be honest and authentic with yourself and your therapist. Plus we don’t want you to be distracted by wondering what someone else heard and what they think about that. Your therapist wants you to stay fully present on YOU.

Many people forget that this applies to being seen and not just heard. Just because we are not being overheard does not mean we don’t worry about what others might think when they see emotion expression, facial responses, and body language. If we prevent ourselves from experiencing our emotions during our therapy sessions it often leads us to making slower progress.

Find a location that provides both visual and auditory privacy. This is essential for feeling safe during your session. And emotional safety makes tele-therapy more productive.

3. Give yourself time before and after to prepare and process the session

Unfortunately it is easy to forget the importance of our transition time with tele-therapy. This is built into in-person sessions when you drive to and from the office. But with tele-therapy its much more tempting to leave the session and jump right into the next thing on your agenda. And just because you can go from one call directly into another, does not mean it is the healthiest thing for us. 

When you give yourself space to prepare for a session, you can remember where you left off last session and anything important that happened in between. You can come up with an agenda to really help you get the most out of the session. And on the back end, providing yourself time to process and gradually enter back into your busy life is essential. Cognitively you can process anything you learned and discussed. Emotionally, you allow yourself space to self-soothe. And biologically, you allow your neural connections time to rewire. All of this helps for tele-therapy to be most effective long-term.

4. Set up access to write or draw or otherwise express yourself

writing utensils to have near your during tele-therapy

Movement is important in therapy. Some people enjoy doodling or drawing during session. Furthermore, it can be very effective to take notes or write prompts for yourself to think about between session. Also, you can jot reminders down for thoughts that come up during session without changing the current subject.

Other times, the therapist will use different writing specifically to help process a specific issue. If you are doing CBT or DBT based therapy, there is often plenty of writing that helps build and practice skills. These techniques could mean needing quick access to writing utensils, paper, coloring supplies, etc. This is especially true for therapy with kids.

Having a space to use them during the session is important and can help reinforce what is being discussed.  Telehealth provides the opportunity to use your favorite mediums that you have at home as long as you create the space to use them in session.  

5. Make sure you have a consistent connection for your tele-therapy session

One of the biggest frustrations with tele-therapy is when the connection goes out. No matter when it happens it takes time away from the therapy session. But it’s especially unhelpful when it happens during an emotional moment in the session. It distracts from getting to the deep stuff we are working towards.

It is important to try to prevent this when possible. This includes being in a stationary place that you’ve tested for strong WIFI connection. If there is a chance of connection being bad, try a different device or a different web browser. Or turn on the closed captioning (when available) to help minimize the interruptions. Yes, this may mean advanced preparation. But those 5 minutes of effort are worth it when it allows for a productive 50 minute therapy session with continuous flow.

Tele-therapy is here to stay!

Doing therapy online provides a great opportunity. It has certainly evolved. And with careful consideration, tele-therapy sessions can provide the same support as in-person sessions do.  Take a few extra moments to follow these guidelines rather than hopping into session on auto-pilot. If you do, your results will soar!

Want to start tele-therapy at Montgomery County Counseling Center?

If you’re ready to start using these strategies in online therapy, follow these steps to begin online therapy with our MD, DC, or VA therapists.

  1. Check out our online therapy offerings.
  2. Fill out and intake form to be matched with one of our awesome therapists!
  3. Begin tele-therapy and find support immediately!

About the Author

Annie Bertran in an orange top sitting outside

Annie Bertran, LCSW-C is a licensed certified social worker-clinical and Therapist at Montgomery County Counseling Center in Rockville, MD. Annie obtained Bachelor’s degree in Social Work with a minor in Psychology from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Annie has extensive training in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). She has worked across several settings over the past decade and has extensive experience with adolescents and young people transitioning into adulthood. Annie sees telehealth clients in both Maryland and Virginia. She also provides clinical supervision for Maryland LMSWs and LGPCs.

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