Online Therapy: How to Get the Most out of It

Online therapy can feel unfamiliar and challenging to navigate. However, research shows that online consultations can be as effective, or even in some cases more effective, than in-person sessions. For more information on effectiveness, check out our blogpost by clicking here. Below are a few ways to get the most out of your e-therapy experience.


  • Set up your Therapy Space

Our brains react to context. For example, repeatedly using the same area to do focused work can train our brains to go into a focused state of mind whenever we enter this area. Vice versa, areas we relax in regularly can automatically put our brains into relaxation mode. Thus, we may find it hard to work effectively in spaces we relax in and hard to relax in spaces we work in.


The same goes for therapy. Online therapy gives us the opportunity to create our own therapy space in which we feel familiar, safe, and comfortable. Ideally, find a space away from your usual activities, especially work. This can be a separate room or even just a small separate space in a larger room. It can be helpful to add items to this area that help to put us into a reflective, soothed, or cosy mindset. This can include tissues, blankets, journals, soft lighting, pillows, and more.


If you are unable to find a separate space, little adjustments can also do the trick. Try sitting in a different position at your desk or even on the floor. Swap out of your work clothes into more a more comfortable attire. Make yourself a cup of tea you would not usually drink or wrap yourself up in your favourite blanket. Spray a specific fragrance prior to each therapy session. Our brains will take note of particular routines we set around therapy, and this will help us to get into the therapeutic mindset.


  • Use a desktop computer with a strong WiFi connection

Try to use a desktop or laptop computer that is set on a stable surface. This reduces movement and allows for a bigger screen, which means you are more likely to feel engaged. Further, computers are less likely to receive frequent notifications or phone calls. Try to ensure that the place you are in allows your computer to connect to strong, consistent WiFi. It can help to turn off other applications that may be placing strain on the connection, including automatic up-and downloads, and anti-virus scans.


If you need to use your phone (or receive notifications on your computer), try to turn these off temporarily for the duration of the session. Also, find a place to securely prop your phone up for added stability and ensure it is connected to consistent WiFi or has full phone reception for mobile data.


  • Use the screen to your advantage

The great advantage of online therapy is being able to make use of features that we would not be able to in person. Screen sharing can create a collaborative environment for you and your therapist to work on things together. Additional educational videos or audio files can help to bring across information in a more engaging way, enhancing your focus. Further, your home setting can allow you to show some of your space with your therapist and vice versa, which can give you a deeper sense of connection. For example, you may want to introduce your cats, display your interior design style, or present your garden. While this kind of personal sharing should stay within appropriate boundaries, it provides an opportunity to share things that are meaningful to you and connect in ways that were previously not possible.


  • Be on time

Make sure you can attend your therapy appointment on time. If you are unsure about the online platform, it can help to log on 5 to 10 minutes early to resolve any technological issues that may come up for you. Check any equipment you are planning to use, including microphones, headsets, laptops, and cameras.


If technological issues due arise, do not fret. These things happen. Usually, they are resolved quickly even though one minute can feel like an eternity when the equipment is not cooperating. Try to stay calm, and keep in mind that the therapy session will still be helpful and effective even if we have to adjust to a shorter time period.

  • Minimize distractions

We may feel a sense of distance when spatially separated and looking at each other through a screen. This can make us prone to losing focus, especially if we are using equipment we usually use for work. Our brain may urge us to check our messages, emails or social media. We may also have external distractions. Maybe we can hear our family members moving about, the doorbell ring or the dogs barking. It is normal to get distracted from time to time and we can gently bring our attention back to the therapy session.


If possible, schedule therapy consultations for when you have the house to yourselves. Of course, this is not always feasible. It can also be helpful to use noise cancelling headphones for your therapy appointment, close curtains and doors, and try to keep children and animals from entering the room. Having a sign up on the door that lets people know you are in session or need quiet time is also valuable to prevent interruptions. If distractions do come up, let your therapist know so they can guide you through them appropriately and offer support when needed.


  • Gather your thoughts

Take 10-minutes before your therapy session to prepare your space, get comfortable and reflect on your week. This is the time you can also set your intention for the session, identify things that are important to share with your therapist, and check-in with yourself on how your week has been. This is also the time you can use to look over any take-home tasks you completed earlier in the week or just take some deep breaths and focus your mind. This preparatory time can allow you to gather your thoughts and enhance the effectiveness of your upcoming session.


  • Enhance confidentiality

Confidentiality remains crucial in online therapy. Many video conferencing platforms used in physical and mental health have enhanced secure encryption to protect clients from illegitimate third-party access. It is important to remember that nothing is 100% secure and that legal authorities can over-ride security protocols. While this can be worrying, this would only occur in extreme cases. If you are uncertain about the encryption of the platform your mental health providers uses, please check with them for further clarification.


A second challenge to confidentiality in an online setting is that the therapist is unable to control confidentiality in the client space. For example, family members or neighbours may over-hear your session or accidentally walk into the room. Sound-absorbing items, such as carpet, or white noise machines can help to limit the amount of intelligible sound that travels outside. Preparing activities for children or other family members can also help to get the space you need for your consultation.


Please discuss any confidentiality concerns you have with your therapist so they can help clarify and put measures in place to make you feel more comfortable.


  • Do not forget to bring some water or other non-alcoholic drinks for the therapy session.

Talking can be dehydrating. Bring some water or other drinks for your therapy consultation to ensure you remain comfortable throughout. Do not bring alcoholic drinks as they may cloud your thoughts and emotions, thus rendering therapy less effective.


For more information or to book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or e.terrighena@mind-balance.org.


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