If you’ve found yourself struggling emotionally and psychologically since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re certainly not the only one. Depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue, and insomnia have plagued many of us over the past year and a half. Online therapy can give you access to the help you need to cope, without putting you at risk of spreading or contracting the COVID-19 virus.
But if you’re used to getting therapy in person, or you’ve never had therapy before, you probably don’t quite know what to expect from online counseling — and you may not know how to do online therapy. Your first priority should be finding a good, licensed therapist, and then you can focus on creating a space for therapy in your home and your mind. Follow these five steps to make online therapy work for your situation.
1) Find a Good Therapist
You may not realize that anyone can call themselves a therapist, even if they don’t have any training in counseling, social work, or psychology. To avoid getting stuck with a quack, look for someone with a title like licensed professional counselor (LPC), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), or licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC). Your therapist should have at least a master’s degree in social work or psychology.
However, just because a therapist is licensed and qualified doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at what they do — someone has to graduate at the bottom of every class, after all. Besides, some therapists can be very skilled and capable, but you just won’t mesh with them on a personal level — and, ideally, you want to find a therapist you really click with, because your ability to trust and be vulnerable with your therapist is directly linked to your treatment outcomes. An online therapy service, like the one offered by Plushcare at https://plushcare.com/online-therapy-illinois/, makes it easy to switch therapists if you don’t feel like you’re gelling with your first — or even second or third — pick.
2) Set Up a Safe Space
When you’re getting therapy online, you have to recreate the privacy of the therapist’s office in your own home. That means finding a room or a quiet corner where you can lounge in a comfortable chair, curl up with a mug of tea and a fuzzy blanket, turn down the lights, and feel safe and secure while you’re discussing your innermost thoughts with another human. Make sure you won’t be eavesdropped upon or interrupted. Keep your therapy time sacred and send your family out on errands or even do it in your car if that’s the only private space you can find. Place tissues, a comfort item, and fidget toys in your therapy space.
3) Familiarize Yourself with the Tech
Your therapist may choose to use a video conferencing app you’re already familiar with, like Skype or Zoom, but some practices and online therapy providers use proprietary apps. Make sure you’ve downloaded whatever you have to download and that you know how to use the software you’ll need before your first session. Sometimes online therapy will include communication via text or audio in addition to, or even instead of, replicating a traditional session via webcam. Make sure you’re familiar with those tools, too.
4) Prepare for Each Session
You won’t have to commute to your online therapy session, but that means you also won’t get the extra time in the car or on the train to think about what you want to discuss in your upcoming session. Go to your therapy space 15 or 20 minutes before your session is scheduled to begin, and spend some time thinking about what you want to bring up with your therapist. Write a list of symptoms you’ve been having, things you’ve been struggling with, and your progress (or lack thereof) towards any goals you’ve set for yourself.
5) Give Yourself Time to Decompress after Sessions
After your therapy session, you may feel drained and emotional. Give yourself some time to process the session and decompress afterward. Give yourself at least 30 minutes after the session to process the work you just did. Go for a walk, do some knitting or crochet, or take a short nap. Give yourself the time you need to feel ready to get on with the rest of the day.
Online therapy can be a great tool to learn coping skills, process trauma, and learn to manage mental illness. With the right attitude and a little elbow grease, you can make online therapy work for you.