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We live in a fast-paced, high-tech world that’s currently dealing with a pandemic. Naturally, online therapy brings many advantages, including accessibility and convenience. In the past few months, as therapists have had to close their offices while people were struggling with anxiety and depression caused by social distancing measures, we have begun to take note of the importance of such a service.

Online therapy is very similar to traditional face to face therapy in terms of the work you do with your chosen therapist. Still, since you’re using a different medium, there will be some differences you both need to accommodate if you want to get the most out of this experience. In this article, we will go through what you need to do to prepare for your first online therapy session.

Find a comfortable private space for your session

You’ll first want to set aside time for your session. Therapy is an important commitment you make to yourself. It will help you work through negative feelings and develop better coping skills to increase your well-being. It’s not something you should try to squeeze in between other appointments or while you’re doing house chores. For therapy to be effective, you need to give it your full attention so you can gain insight into your emotional and behavioural patterns.

If you live with other people, make sure they know you need privacy, and they won’t disturb you for 50 minutes. You’ll also want to avoid ambient noise so close any windows and use headphones with a microphone for better sound clarity. Instead of a chair, it’s better to sit on a sofa because it’s more comfortable. If you’ve been to therapy before you may have noticed that you tend to grab one of the pillows on the therapist’s sofa and hold it in your lap. That’s a self-soothing behaviour that helps you talk about distressing topics. You may want to consider keeping a pillow close by during online therapy sessions. Another item you’ll need is a box of tissues. Again, you may have noticed that therapists place them near the sofa.

Technical aspects

Once you set aside a suitable timeframe and find a comfortable, private space where you can talk freely, you’ll want to minimize the chance of technical issues disrupting your online therapy sessions.

Download whatever software platform you’ll be using during the session and familiarize yourself with the interface. You’ll probably receive instructions on how to use the different features. Then you’ll want to check your webcam and microphone to make sure you have good video and sound quality. If you’re using a headset, select the external microphone and check if the software recognizes it.

It’s best to log in a few minutes before every session to go through this technical check-list. Next item will be your internet connection. If your Wi-Fi signal isn’t very stable, you can use the ethernet cable directly. Newer laptops might not have an ethernet port in which case you can use an adaptor. As a back-up, keep your phone nearby so that if your internet connection drops, you can contact your therapist and create a hot-spot.   

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