Updated: Apr 5
This blog post is long overdue as I have been offering online sessions for three years already but nevertheless, these tips will support you in getting the most out of your online therapy sessions; whether you've been doing it for awhile or you're new to online therapy. Some of these tips are also helpful to any therapy context, not only online sessions.
1. Choose your space wisely and make it comfortable for yourself
You should have a private space without any interruptions. So if you share a house with someone be sure to let them know that you are busy and they shouldn't interrupt during that time. You want to feel comfortable to be able to express yourself without worrying about someone listening in. De-clutter your space and make sure there are no distractions.
2. Make sure you have everything you need
Be sure to pour yourself a glass of water; all the talking can sometimes make your throat feel dry. If you would like to, have another beverage of choice. Perhaps a warm cup of soothing tea. Try to stay away from caffeinated drinks as caffeine will only activate your nervous system and make you feel more on edge, which is not what you need in a therapy session. Have a box of tissues and a notebook or journal and pen with you to take notes when the need arises.
3. Get comfy and make sure you're set up a few minutes early
Don't wear any uncomfortable fitting clothing that might distract you from being present. Go to the toilet and make sure you've eaten before your session so that you are full and can sit comfortably. Get any blankets or cushions needed to sit snugly. Make sure you've got a window open for some fresh air if needed and you can even light a scented candle or have a salt lamp with you to provide a sense of warmth and safety.
4. Check your internet connection and have a back up option
You need to have a good internet connection as if it not sufficient you will feel that the session is being interrupted constantly with disconnections taking place. Of course, these things happen with technology from time to time but do your best to ensure a good connection and have your phone with data loaded as a back up in case. Also check the load shedding schedule (if you are an SA resident you will know how important this is) and make sure you have your devices charged and ready for your session.
5. Have a clock to check your time
It can be distracting to look at your phone to check the time and if it's not displayed on your screen during your session I would suggest having a clock in the room so that you can pace yourself and see how much time you have left. Often it can feel very hard to have just opened up about something new only to realize you are at the end of your session time and you leave feeling raw and vulnerable.
6. Set up your device up properly
Make sure you face towards a window or a lamp so that your therapist can see your face clearly - a lot of back light can make your face appear in shadow and is not helpful for creating an authentic connection. Set your device up at eye level so you're not having to bend over your device or crane your neck upwards. It can be helpful to place some books underneath to elevate your device to the correct height. It is better to use a laptop as the screen is bigger and you can see more clearly but if you are having to use your phone make sure to set it up so that you don't need to hold it up the whole time.
7. Prepare yourself before your session
While it is not necessary to prepare at all before your sessions, it can be helpful to sit and think about what has been on your mind and what you might like to talk about. Think about any questions/thoughts/topics of discussion that have been on your mind but don't feel limited to stick to what you have planned. Allow the session to flow in whatever direction it may organically take in the moment. Often the best aha! moments come unexpectedly.
As much as it can be tempting to leave your therapy session and just resume life as per usual, you are doing yourself a great disservice if you don't take the time to reflect on your sessions. Reflect on your session afterwards and consider writing in your journal the 'takeaways' you got from your session. These can be really helpful to look back on and will also allow you to see the growth you've made over time.
9. Give yourself time to recover
In case it is an emotional session, you don't want to have any heavy commitments directly after your sessions so be mindful of when you schedule your sessions for and try to give yourself some time to take it easy afterwards. If you do have commitments after your session try to schedule in commitments and tasks which are not high in intensity or do not require intensive thought.
10. Use your support system
Talk about what you are learning in sessions with your partner/ friends or family who you know will be supportive of your growth process. Ask them to hold you accountable to your self-growth and healing and let them be a part of your process. Similarly, refrain from speaking about your therapy sessions with someone you know will not understand or will be judgmental of you or harmful towards your process.
Are there any other helpful tips or practices that help you get more out of your therapy sessions? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Let me know which points felt most important to you?