Have you heard of teletherapy yet? If you’re not already seeing a counselor regularly, then it’s possible you might not be familiar with the concept. But, since we’re in a time of self-distancing due to Covid-19, maybe you’ve seen people talk about it online or heard about it from a friend or family member. It’s been around for a while, but teletherapy is becoming more popular and a necessary means for people to continue working with their counselors in a time when we are mandated to stay home.
Teletherapy is very simple and easy to engage with from a technical standpoint. I imagine most of us are familiar with some sort of video chatting whether it’s face-timing, Facebook chats, Skype or google hangouts – even if we haven’t engaged with those things ourselves, many people have at least seen others do so. Teletherapy is simply a therapy session with a live-video connection on the internet. The whole process for getting signed in to my session was seamless. My counselor sent me a link, I clicked the link and just like that we were in teletherapy mode. Pretty easy, right?
Many people worry that this will feel disruptive or different from what they have grown accustomed to and I get that. I definitely prefer in-person conversations, but I realized that my mental health and well-being during these crazy and chaotic times was greater than my need to wait to see my counselor in person. I’m so glad my counselor reached out and set this up. Nothing was different other than we were on a video chat instead of in an office—the level of care and the quality of conversation was just as good as if we’d been in person. It’s an incredible opportunity to make therapy even more accessible to people beyond these times of self-isolation. And, I was happily surprised at how real and authentic the session felt without being in the same room.
Since it’s a new platform and way of interacting with your counselor, it might feel different or odd at first. Totally normal! That’s why I recommend you should get comfortable and find a place that feels safe to have the session. I was worried that what if other people heard me (I’m a loud talker) or my counselor talking, since much of what we discuss is private and personal.
To mitigate this, I makeshifted a counseling space and, trust me, it was nothing fancy. I got a stool to sit on, a tv-tray for my computer, locked myself in the bathroom, and put up a little sign politely asking for no knocking or interruptions (don’t worry there are two other bathrooms in my house that roommates could use when I took an hour for therapy). In many ways, I felt like I was a five year old setting up a fort, but it allowed me to be in a place where I knew I could talk and share freely. Just like it’s key to feel safe and comfortable in your counselor’s office, the same applies when you’re doing teletherapy.
A few more practical things I’ve learned is to make sure you’ve got a solid internet connection where you are and don’t forget to grab your headphones if you want to keep the conversation extra private. I went to my computer early for my appointment because I was a little worried I would have to download an app, create an account and all those administrative type things, but I didn’t have to do any of that. I just simply clicked a link and I was in!
Also, make sure to check with your insurance provider to see if they cover teletherapy sessions like they do in-person sessions. All teletherapy sessions must be over secure and private platforms (my counselor used doxy.me) to ensure all HIPAA, GDPR, PHIPA/PIPEDA, & HITECH requirements are being met. It was great to have the assurance that these calls were private and I had nothing to worry about.
Other than that, I’m happy to report that teletherapy is a great alternative to face to face meetings and it didn’t take more than a couple minutes to settle in and feel like a normal therapy session. If you’re missing out on therapy due to social distancing right now (or if it just sounds like the right fit for you – even when we’re not in a global pandemic…) I would encourage you to ask a counselor about this type of session and try it out. You may just be surprised at how helpful it really is.