COVID-19 has resulted in a massive shift to telehealth. And, while it has been an adjustment for myself and my clients, online therapy has allowed me to continue offering quality care during a time of crisis when it is more important than ever that mental health professionals are available to help.
As someone who was reluctant to make the switch from in-person treatment at first, I’ve learned some valuable lessons for making the most out of teletherapy.
1.Master the technology – Because both clear verbal communication and body language are crucial to providing treatment in mental health care, clear audio and responsive video are imperative in telehealth sessions. I have become increasingly comfortable with my telehealth platform and test it out in advance of sessions. The camera should be close so that everyone involved can observe facial expressions and body language. Good sound quality is important, and I recommend having the client’s phone number at hand if the telehealth session is disconnected or disrupted.
2. Stick to a consistent time and place for therapy – Although telehealth gives the option of more flexibility than a scheduled office visit does, it is important to carve out a specific time and setting for therapy to avoid distractions. Therapy is often rigorous, difficult work and it is important to stay focused. I even review the background in my office before a session, to make sure there is nothing new or distracting for clients to see.
3. Expect some awkwardness at first – No matter what platform you are using, teletherapy is going to be a different experience from in-person therapy. It may not feel like the therapist and client are in-sync, initially. By communicating openly about the adjustment and the discomfort, those feelings can ease fairly quickly. The more comfortable both therapist and client are with the technology and the clearer expectations are on both ends, the less likely it is that the awkwardness will continue.
4. Be flexible – Not only are clients making a major adjustment to using technology, but they are also dealing with life during a traumatic event. Therapists should understand changing needs and circumstances and work with clients to address these. This could mean a different appointment time or length, a different session format, or something as simple as allowing a pet in the room.
5.Maintain best practices – Switching to telehealth should not impact how you conduct business. While both federal and state regulations have eased during COVID-19, we at Evergreen Psychotherapy Center continue to comply with HIPAA requirements for privacy and follow state regulations that were in effect before the pandemic. As always, Evergreen is committed to the ethical guidelines that govern our field.
As we venture down this new road, we continue to learn, change and adapt. We welcome your comments and recommendations for successful teletherapy. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts. Or, call us at (866) 674-4029 to set up your teletherapy appointment today.