Ever since the Covid pandemic became part of our lives, people have been forced to adapt to a quick-changing landscape. They’ve entered online spaces in mass and shifted their business models to fit an online format.
Therapy is no exception.
Although online therapy isn’t something new that came about because of the pandemic – it definitely wasn’t as popular or as common as it became thereafter. Now, with both a lot of once traditional in-person therapists and new clients joining the scene, the question of how to offer effective online therapy is more relevant than ever!
We’ve considered both the therapist and the patient to come up with some tips for improving the overall experience and productivity of online sessions.
Create a Safe Environment
Anything you did to create a welcoming environment for patients during in-person sessions can be translated to your online space. This will differ based on your method of interacting with clients.
If you are online messaging, try to be more personal and avoid robotic messages. Easier said than done, for sure, but with effort and experimentation – you can nail down a good and effective communication strategy.
If you are talking to your clients by voice or video chat, make sure to conduct the session in a quiet room and try not to let any auditory distractions in. Investing in a quality audio setup will go a long way.
When talking via video chat where both parties can see each other, be mindful of your surroundings. Patients will be able to see bits and pieces of the room you’re in. Make sure to decorate nicely and use lighting to your advantage.
Keep in mind that online therapy might be seen as “less than” traditional therapy by some. To overcome these types of thoughts, present your clients with proper credentials and certificates, as well as HIPAA compliance.
Be Flexible and Accommodating
Online therapy offers more freedom in a lot of aspects for both the doctor and patient – use them! Be ready and willing to change your approach and try new things. Also, try to remain accommodating to people’s needs and schedules and provide flexible payment methods – your clients will appreciate it.
You should also consider technical glitches. There may be problems with the internet connection or the online platform you’re using. These issues aren’t within your control, but you can remain calm and deal with them consciously.
Become Accustomed With Working Online
For a job where reading facial expressions and body movement is sometimes vital, online work can be a considerable disadvantage. You will need to learn how people usually communicate online vs. in-office and read their emotions better when conveyed through text, audio, or video chat.
Self-awareness is good to practice with patients in general, but in telemedicine – it can become more a necessity than a therapeutic exercise. Encourage your patient to always speak up about how they are feeling and what their needs are, no matter how small, trivial, or foolish they may seem to them.
Use the Format to Your Advantage
It’s not all bad when it comes to online therapy. Often, there are a lot of positives to the unique format as long as you approach it with an open mind.
The patient is in the comfort of their own home, for starters. This can reassure and make them more vulnerable and open to disclosing their thoughts and feelings. You also have an opportunity to peak into your patients’ lives in a new way. You may get to see their pets, a houseplant they love, or any around-the-house items with significance to them – giving you further insight into them as a person.
Listen to Feedback
Be prepared to learn as you go along! Ask for feedback from clients and listen to what they have to say. A lot of people are still adapting to the shift to a more online-centered life. If you are new to online therapy, there’s no need to panic, as the majority of your clients will most likely be as well.
You can overcome any bumps on the road by taking suggestions and applying changes. You may even allow a small amount of time during a session to discuss what’s helpful and supportive for each client and what’s not – making you better at identifying which approach works best on different occasions, preparing you better for future sessions.
So, Am I a Good Therapist Yet?
The bottom line – you want to help your patient. Mental health has been negatively affected these past few years, and more and more patients are seeking out professional help.
Online therapy is still new, but with these tips in mind – you’ll adjust in no time and start treating patients effectively.