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How do I get the most from my online therapy session?

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

So, you’re meeting your psychologist or therapist online! Good for you. And now you’re thinking, “What’s it going to be like? What can I do to make sure it’s useful? Can I do it from my bedroom? In my pyjamas?!”.

We’ll break it down for you! Online therapy is going to help a lot of people get through the tough times that COVID-19 has created. And if you are already receiving treatment, it's a super way to continue your therapy until you can see your therapist in person again. You never know, you might like it so much, you continue online sessions in the future.

Your space

Take advantage of being in your own space. Just like you would want your therapist’s office to be prepared and calm, your own space can be really helpful in setting you up for a great online therapy experience. As a start, make sure it’s: 

  • Private - you don’t want to be somewhere where you’ll be interrupted. If there is a family member or housemate in the next room and you’re concerned about them overhearing you, maybe ask them to move to another area, wear headphones or get some Vitamin D outside for a while. 

  • Comfortable - find somewhere you can sit for 50 minutes without getting uncomfortable (but sorry, you gotta get dressed in your day clothes 🤣)

  • Quiet - you and your therapist will need to be able to hear each other clearly

  • Has limited distractions - turn your phone on silent if you’re using your laptop for the session, let people around you know that it’s important they don’t interrupt you during the session

  • Reasonably well lit - it’s important to be able to see each other’s faces when we have more limited non-verbal signals to pick up on 

Your technology

  • A device - it could be a phone, tablet or laptop. If it’s shared, make sure it’s available when you’ll need it

  • Software - have you done a test run to make sure your device is set up to work smoothly during your session? If you need help and you don’t have a teenager handy, call us - our reception team are happy to help!

  • Check your internet connection and bandwidth.

  • If you’ll be using data, do you have enough?  It's often better to use a private wi-fi connection.

  • Check your battery. Will you need to leave it on charge during your session? Will the cord reach?

  • Headphones - they can be a great help with the audio and may help you to focus better on the conversation with your therapist

  • What’s your backup plan? Your psychologist will arrange to talk over the phone if the video connection isn’t working. 

Your comfort items

People who’ve been doing online therapy for years say one of the main advantages is the opportunity to be in their own space with their own resources. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Cup of tea or other drink that is soothing or familiar (our sessions are alcohol free zones though!)

  • Scented candle or an essential oil diffuser

  • A cushion, or something soft

  • Best of all, you can have your pet with you 🐶🐱

Your Expectations

Why include this?! Well, a big factor in whether things will go well is our expectations. Telling yourself helpful things is a great way to:

(i) set yourself up for a good experience and

(ii) have the ability to problem solve if you need it.

Here’s a helpful set of expectations to get you started:

  • “This is a good solution to our current situation. It doesn’t need to be perfect or to feel the same as my in-person sessions in order to be worthwhile.” 

  • “It might feel a bit strange at first, but my therapist and I can talk about that and it won’t feel strange for long.”

  • “We might have technical difficulties but my psychologist and I can troubleshoot them and switch to a phone call if it’s taking too long to fix.”

Your feelings

That’s right, bring your feelings! Whatever you’re feeling about doing therapy online, bring it to the session. Maybe you’re sad about not being able to see your therapist face to face? Maybe you’re frustrated that so many things in your life are changing and now your therapy is changing too? Maybe you’re disappointed that you are struggling so much with all life's recent changes. Whatever it is, let your therapist know how you feel about it so you can be heard and supported. You may even be able to work through these feelings in such a way that your next session feels easier and more productive. 


Your support needs

What help might you need with the video-conference platform? With the technology in general? Is there someone in your family or a friend who can help you set things up or have a practice? Don’t forget, we’re just a phone call away to talk you through the set up too. Our reception team are happy to schedule a 5-10 minute free set-up call to check that you're all set up and ready to go for your first online session with your therapist. You’re welcome to call us as many times as you need to get things sorted. Keep in mind, if you'd rather just talk over the phone, your psychologist can easily just do that.

Remember, you're already good at doing new things! Think of other times you found something challenging at the start but it got easier (learning to drive, speaking another language, eating seafood 🦀). Things that start out as unfamiliar and clunky become familiar and smooth with practice and patience. And your mental health is one of the most important things you can invest in during this time of great uncertainty and change.

See you online!

The Amherst Psychology Team

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