Many things have changed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the way
we live our lives, conduct business, even the way we receive therapy. There have been many adjustments we have made during this time, some easier than others. One of the ways we've adjusted to this new way of being in the therapeutic realm is with online therapy known as “telehealth”.
As a therapist, telehealth has been a great option to continue working with my clients while under quarantine. It did take some change in the way I did therapy though; and yes, there was definitely a learning curve. Initially, I had some reservations. There are many non-verbal queues that a therapist picks up on in an in-person session; body language, energy in the room, etc. I was worried that I would miss out on that non-verbal communication when I switched to telehealth. I comforted myself by reminding myself that online therapy is better than no therapy; which would have been the case during quarantine without the virtual telehealth option.
I quickly learned however that there are many ways to make sure I pick up on all non-
verbal communication even in an online session. For example, if a client is becoming anxious or panicky during a session, I can watch their chest movement to see if they are beginning to breathe faster. This is an indicator that I need to provide client with self-regulation/calming tools to utilize during the session and other times of distress. If a client will not maintain eye contact, that can be a sign of distress or discomfort with the topic. These are just two examples of the many ways I learned how to make sure I am not missing out on non-verbal queues when in a virtual session.
I also learned that the way for the client to get the best experience during an online
session is to coach them on how to mimic, as much as possible, an in-person session. In the beginning, I had clients that would be driving, doing dishes, camera pointed at the ceiling fan, cleaning the refrigerator, you name it! I quickly realized it was part of my new job as an online therapist to help instruct the clients on how to get the most out of each session.
I now make it a point in my pre-session consultations to coach my clients on how to have an effective online session. (1) Make sure the client is scheduled during a time when they will be settled at home (2) With a strong internet connection (3) Ideally behind closed doors where they can speak freely and privately. (4) Limiting all possible distractions. It is important that clients are focused on the therapy/therapeutic environment to be able to get the most out of each telehealth session. Therapy is an important part of self-care. Why not get the most out of it? It’s the 50 minutes per week that it gets to be all about the client….when else in life can we say it’s all about us? Not very often. By coaching my clients pre-session, I no longer have distracted clients and they are able to get the most out of each session.
There is also a great up-side to online sessions. Clients are able to log on from home
which offers much in the way of convenience. It also cuts back on travel time and travel expenses. It also opens up therapy to clients throughout the state of California, not just in my local area. I have gained many clients that are in farther away areas including Northern California, Central California and more southern areas of California. This greatly widens the range of the clients that I can help, which I love!
All in all, telehealth has been a great option during the quarantine/pandemic. I am
finding that many of my clients want to continue to stay with online therapy even now that the Covid numbers are going down and things are returning (somewhat) to normal. Majority of my clients love the convenience of online therapy and have requested to stay with telehealth for the long-term. This is proving to be the case for many therapists. Telehealth is making its way to becoming our new “normal”.