As many have struggled in the past with opening up to mental therapists, their hope was that they would find it simpler to act vulnerable if they could talk behind a screen. What they found was that they were able to reveal more to mental health counselor, and thus, it strengthened the therapeutic relationship.
Not only did this alter their online mental counselling experience — it also unwittingly set them for the huge shift to online mental health that’s now happening in wake of the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re seeking to start online mental counselling, or if your mental therapist has moved their practice to web mode for the unpredictable future, it can be a big transition.
While it can be a huge adjustment, online counselling can be an amazing and valuable support system — particularly in a period of crisis.
So how do you make the most of online counselling? Consider these 4 tips as you make your change to online mental health:
1. Create a safe space and planned time for online therapy
The open nature of online therapy makes it even more vital to have some space and time set away to involve with this process fully.
If you’re self-isolating with some person, you can also ask them to use headphones or sit in another room while you talk with your mental health counselor. You might also get innovative and create a blanket tent with cord lights for a more peaceful, limited environment.
No matter what you choose, make sure you’re arranging online therapy and doing it in an environment that feels secure for you.
2. Be flexible with the plan of your online counselling
Some online psychological counselling platforms utilize a combination of messaging, audio, and video, while others are a normal session over webcam. If you have alternatives in online psychological counselling, it’s worth understanding what combination of text, audio, and video works good for you.
For instance, if you’re self-isolated with your family, you might depend on messaging more often as not to be overheard by anybody and have as much time as you require to write it. Or if you’re tired out from working remotely and staring at a screen, you can record an audio message that might make you feel better.
One of the benefits of online psychological counselling is that you have a lot of diverse tools at your disposal. Be comfortable to experimenting!
3. In the absence of physical cues, practice stating your emotions clearly
If you’ve been in traditional in-person mental counselling for a while, you might be used to your psychologist observing your physical cues and facial expressions, and kind of “sensing” your emotional state.
The psychologist’s ability to read us is something we might take for granted as we go for online counselling. Hence, it can be really helpful to practice naming our emotions and responses more clearly.
For example, if your psychologist says something that strikes a nerve, it can be great to pause and say, “When you shared that with me, I felt myself in the state of frustration.”
Similarly, learning to be more expressive around our emotions can give your psychologist useful information in the counselling that they do.
Rather than just saying “I am tired,” You might say “I am drained/ worn out.” In place of saying “I am feeling down,” You might say, “I am feeling a mixture of anxiety and helplessness.”
4. Be willing to say it loud what you need — even if it seems ‘silly’
Some things that may be supportive to bring to your online counselor during this time:
Can you come up with some ways to help me remain connected to other people?
I think I just experienced my first panic attack. Could you share some ways on how to cope?
I can’t pause thinking about the coronavirus. What can I do to redirect my negative thoughts?
Do you think my anxiety around Covid-19 makes sense, or does it feel wrong?
The family member I’m quarantined with is affecting my mental health. How can I stay safe?
Remember that there’s no concern too big or too small to talk to your online counselor. Anything that’s affecting you is worth talking about, even if it may seem insignificant to someone else.