How to Use Online Therapy for Your Mental Health
Speaking with a mental health professional is beneficial for many reasons. Therapy can help with issues like depression, trauma, and anxiety, as well as acute stress and social isolation. If you are used to in-person therapy sessions, it may feel strange to open up to your counselor from your living room sofa or kitchen table. You are not alone if you feel unsure of how to share your feelings or make the most of your teletherapy over a video conference. While online therapy can be an adjustment, it can be an amazing and worthwhile support system – especially in a time of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic. As you make your transition to teletherapy, here are eight tips to help you make the most of your experience.
1. Create a Safe Space & Be Intentional with Your Therapy Time
This is your time. Identify a space that is quiet and enclosed – somewhere you feel protects the privacy of your session. It is important to have the space and time set aside to fully engage in the emotional nature of the therapy process. You can get creative with your safe space by using string lights for a more soothing environment or use pillows and blankets to get comfortable. If you are self-isolating with another person, you can ask your companion to take a walk or listen to headphones while you are in your session.
2. Minimize Your Distractions
It is critical to be able to focus, engage, and express yourself effectively to get the most out of your teletherapy. After creating your quiet, private space, one of the best ways to ensure you have a successful appointment is to minimize your distractions. Try wearing headphones to block out additional noise during your session and avoid incoming notifications on your phone by turning on your “do not disturb” feature, which will mute alerts that might come through on other devices, like laptops and tablets. If you cannot find a secluded spot at home, try taking a socially distanced walk while you talk with your therapist. No matter what works for you, prioritize your therapy and do it in an environment where you feel safe.
3. Treat Teletherapy as if You Are Going to a Normal Appointment
Get dressed and adopt the mindset that teletherapy is like any other appointment to see your therapist. Putting on certain clothes can help make you feel more like you are going to a typical in-person session. This can allow you to get in the right headspace to cover your therapy topics and work towards your goals, as you would in a regular appointment. If you are new to therapy, use your first session to establish your goals and lay out what you want to achieve with the process.
4. Be Flexible with Your Therapy Format
One of the many benefits of online therapy is that you have several different tools at your disposal. Whether you use a combination of messaging, audio, and video conferencing, it is worth exploring and being flexible to find what options work best for you. Regardless of what platform you and your therapist use, know that teletherapy can be an adjustment. It is normal to expect some initial awkwardness as you get acquainted with the online methods. Be open to experimenting with your teletherapy options, communicate with your therapist about what works well for you, and you might be surprised by your adaptability.
5. Lean into Teletherapy for the Unique Experience
Due to its accessibility, online therapy offers some unique aspects that you do not necessarily get with in-person therapy. For instance, you may not be able to bring your cat with you to your in-person session, but it may be special to introduce your furry friends in your virtual appointment. Get creative with how you use the tools available to you for teletherapy and feel more engaged. For instance, share articles with your therapist about topics that resonate with your discussions and goals, establish quick, daily check-ins via messaging, or write and send gratitude lists during especially stressful times.
6. Practice Naming Your Emotions in the Absence of Bodily Cues
We take our therapist’s ability to read our bodily cues and facial expressions for granted. As we pivot to teletherapy, it is beneficial to practice naming our reactions and emotions, rather than expect our therapist to intuit our emotional states. Learn to be more descriptive about your emotions by pausing and sharing your feelings throughout your sessions. The more honest you are with your therapist, the more beneficial the therapeutic relationship will be for your treatment process.
7. Say What You Need – Even If It Seems Foolish
Therapy is available to help you navigate negative emotions and more. Whether you feel stress, anxious, or unsettled, these feelings are normal. Be kind to yourself. No issues is too big or too small to bring to your therapist. If it is impacting you, it is worth talking about. Some examples of topics you could bring to your teletherapy conversations include:
- Brainstorming ways to stay connected to others during this time.
- Discussing a meal planning strategy, if you keep forgetting to eat.
- Sharing resources for coping with panic attacks.
- Understanding ways to redirect recurring thoughts about the Coronavirus.
- Unpacking anxious or disproportionate thoughts.
- Developing safe strategies for quarantining with someone who is impacting your mental health.
Remind yourself that therapy is extremely beneficial for your mental health right now. If you need additional support or personal connection, we’re here for you at Diversus Health.
8. Maintain a Regular Therapy Routine
Online therapy sessions are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your teletherapy program should fit your personal needs. Now is the time to pay attention to what works. Perhaps you need consistent, weekly engagements or quick, one-off sessions with a specialist. Take this opportunity to understand the cadence that works best for you and be patient with the process.
Teletherapy can be a powerful tool for your mental health, especially during these stressful, isolating times. Do not be afraid of trying something different. Vocalize your needs and expectations and be willing to meet your therapist halfway as you work together. Protect your mental health and find an ally in our online therapists at Diversus Health today.
We understand that dealing with the current state of the world is difficult. If you need to talk to someone, text ‘TALK’ to 38255 to reach our crisis hotline or schedule an appointment. We can connect you to one of our licensed providers to get you the care you need.