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10 Tips for Better Remote Therapy Sessions

Dog working on a laptop.

DISCLAIMER: I am not writing this to convince anyone that they need therapy or to discuss the effectiveness (or not) of remote treatment. I'm merely writing about some of the things I've seen detract from people getting the full benefit of their online therapy sessions.

The covid-19 threat has many of us working from home, and it is quite the adjustment. Naturally, our level of distractability goes up when our work is unpleasant in some way. The same is true when our therapists ask us to focus on some uncomfortable things. Taking some time to prepare for your virtual therapy can help you get the most out of your sessions.

It is likely that your therapist is going to ask you to slow down and talk about things that might be pretty difficult or unpleasant. These unpleasant bits of our story tend to be the parts we want to skip over. Minimizing, rationalizing and just plain distracting our selves from the hard stuff can become so automatic that we often aren't aware that we are doing it at all.

Having your television muted in the background can become a nice oasis for your attention when you start to feel some not-so-nice feelings. It's also a total waste of your time.

These unpleasant feels are usually pointing to the actions or the people or the change you seek. Where there is pain or discomfort, there is usually also something you care about nearby. There is direction. There is an answer you don't want to hear, but need to - Oh, wait. Nope, there is a Mountain Dew commercial.

Here are some best practices to get the most out of your remote therapy sessions.

  • Turn off your television. I know this seems obvious, but I've had to ask someone to do this more than once. (It also kind of makes me laugh.)

  • Log on to the therapy site ten minutes early. Most telemedicine sites provide a link to test and troubleshoot any problems with your camera, headphones, and microphone.

  • Use headphones with a microphone. This is almost a requirement. The mic limiter on your device is pretty bad at picking up your voice while transmitting your therapist's voice at the same time. You'll hear better, your therapist will hear better, and headphones are more private.

  • Get comfortable. The comfort of your favorite chair might actually help you get a little deeper into the therapy process.

  • Create a sound shield. Use a Bluetooth speaker or white noise generator like your therapist does in their office. Put the speaker or noise generator outside your door for privacy and a signal to stay out.

  • Hide your phone from sight. Silencing your devices isn't enough. Kill all notifications, including vibration and visible cues. Turn off your phone. *gasp*

  • Prepare your meeting space. Remove anything that might draw your attention from the space you'll be joining from and close or hide windows on your desktop. Consider that working at your desk may be convenient, but it may not be the best place to meet.

  • Take advantage of your location. If you are working on a relationship with someone, open a picture of that person on your desktop. (Let your therapist know that you've done this so they can integrate it into the session.)

  • No privacy at home? Meet from your car. I've have had a few surprising breakthroughs with different clients while meeting from their cars. Our cars are very personal spaces where many of us feel safe and comfortable.

  • Call out your therapist if you think they are distracted. It's totally fair.

Hope this guide gives you some ideas that help keep your work going during these uncertain times.


Photo by Jean Beaufort

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