It can be nerve wracking to have your first internet therapy appointment.
Even if you have tried counselling before, internet therapy feels different, and comes with some slightly different protocols.
How can you prepare for your first online therapy session?
[Not sure if internet therapy is right for you? Read our connected piece, “Is Skype Counselling Right For You?”.]
12 ways to make sure an online counselling session goes well
1. Set your privacy parameters.
Hypothetically, you can do an internet therapy session anywhere.
But a good therapy session needs privacy and quiet. You ideally need a room completely to yourself with a door that remains closed.
It’s better if you don’t have to worry about anyone overhearing you as the point of therapy is to be able to speak freely. So if it’s possible have your assistant go out for an hour, or make sure the kids are occupied in the other end of the house.
If you are worried others will be listening in, try a headset. This at least means others only hear one end of the conversation.
2. Troubleshoot any possible distractions.
If you often receive parcels, consider things like leaving a note for any courier to not ring the bell but leave parcels in a nearby safe spot.
And if someone might come back midway through your session, again, leave a note to remind them to be quiet as you have an online meeting.
3. Shut it off.
Yes, you can put your phone on silent and next to your computer so the therapist doesn’t hear you have received messages, or still have your emails pop up on your computer screen during your session… but why sabotage your experience?
You are paying for your session in both time and money. So make it a good investment. Close other windows and turn off the phone – unless you are using it for the session, in which case turn off all alerts.
4. Beat the technology gremlins.
No matter how tempting it might feel to pop open Skype just before your session, technology is fallible. Even if you use Skype often, sometimes there are updates and before you know it, you are waiting for the update to complete and can’t place the call in time.
If you don’t use video conferencing often, then check that your microphone and camera are working and all is in order at least the day before.
If you are travelling, and are, say, in a new hotel room, or using free wifi somewhere, do test the connection – even if it’s worked for emails it might not be strong enough for a video call. Give yourself time to arrange for better internet or another room.
5. Have what you need nearby.
Have what you need nearby. This includes:
- a box of tissues
- a glass of water (you might talk a lot and need it)
- the power lead for your phone or laptop.
6. Make yourself comfortable.
Comfortable, but alert. When you are video chatting with friends and family it’s fine to lounge on the sofa, but you do need to be sitting up straight for your therapy.
Consider things in advance like whether you want to sit on a pillow, or whether you need the window shut or the heating a bit higher (we all get a bit colder when sitting still).
7. Don’t forget to pay in advance if that is what you agreed to.
Again, don’t leave this until the five minutes before the session. Things can go wrong – your Paypal account can act up, you can struggle to find the email with payment details.
8. Learn video basics to improve your sessions.
You’d be amazed how many people show up on a video call with just the top of their head showing, or themselves in the bottom corner and empty space taking up most of the screen.
Think about watching the news, and the sort of framing that is used when people are being interviewed.
It’s ideal to frame yourself so that your head and shoulders fill the screen. At most include your upper torso (the photo to the right gives an idea of what to do and not to do).
Good framing is helpful to your therapist, as they can clearly see the emotions and responses on your face.
Tip your computer screen to make this possible, or put your laptop on books to raise it if you have to much space above your head seated on your chair.
Another helpful tip can be to not wear thin stripes or a wildly patterned top, as sometimes this can ‘jump’ on the screen (the video software won’t be able to pick it up so it then looks like it’s moving).
9. Sign in at least five minutes before the session.
Always give yourself at least a five minute window to sign into Skype or Google Chat. This means if your computer is suddenly slow (Sod’s law!) you will still make the session on time. It also means you are not harried having just gotten to the computer, but will be calm and relaxed when the session begins.
10. And do be on time!
Online therapy is exactly like in-person therapy in this way. It’s not fair to the therapist or even to you to be tardy, as it’s time you’ll lose out on.
If something has happened and you can’t do the session, get in touch with your therapist immediately and let them know, just like you wold with any other appointment.
11. Stop the sabotage.
Therapy makes many of us anxious. This can mean we unconsciously try to sabotage appointments, and there are even more ways to do this if you are at home or travelling.
Don’t ‘just pop out for one quick errand’ in the hour before your session, book another appointment back to back with it, or think you’ll just have a ‘quick look’ at the mini bar before your online therapy appointment.
12. Then relax and be yourself.
It can feel odd for the first few minutes to be meeting someone over a video call, but internet therapy will quite quickly be like any other therapy session.
Your therapist will work to make you feel comfortable, safe, and supported, and all you need to do is answer the questions and prompts they ask as honestly as possible and let the magic that is psychotherapy and counselling unfold for you.
Harley Therapy provides online therapy and telephone counselling worldwide. All our therapists have at least five years experience and are committed to creating a warm and supportive environment for you to move forward in.
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