Getting the Most Out of Telehealth

The spread of Coronavirus has suddenly sent us into a world of social distancing requiring quick adaptation. Fortunately, this does not have to mean isolation. However, it does require us to be mindful, intentional and creative about nurturing connection.

One important way to do this is to continue therapy in the best, albeit modified, way that we can. You might be tempted to pause therapy due to concerns of the effectiveness of telehealth. At the same time you may also be experiencing more manifestations of stress, anxiety, depression and addictive or compulsive patterns. More than ever we are all being forced to deal with ourselves and our relationships. While this may feel challenging, it’s also an opportunity to listen to the inner call to healing. There are also benefits to our present circumstances including flexibility with time. All things considered, maintaining your regularly scheduled therapy sessions is likely to be highly beneficial.

I’ve been doing some telehealth for a few years now. I’ve done it only under circumstances where the client cannot receive needed services where they live, primarily overseas or within the state of Virginia (due to licensing restrictions, which licensing boards are working to waive during the pandemic). As skeptical as I have been in the past, I have been surprised to see that it is not nearly as limiting as I thought, and possibly just as effective. Taking a few steps can help you to get just as much out of your virtual session as you get face-to-face.

Useful tips to help you get the most out of telehealth…
Allow an extra 10 minutes or so for your session, especially the first couple of times for the inevitable adjustments and technological glitches. Heartswell clients are not charged for this extra time.

Log on 5-10 minutes before your session. You can mute your microphone and stop your video and turn them on when your session begins. This can emulate the mental preparation that takes place during the drive to therapy and sitting in the waiting room. In this time remove distractions from your space or get yourself a glass of water.

Use earphones. This will improve sound quality and also give you more privacy if that is a concern. For couples, a set of wireless earbuds, such as Airpods, work great. Each partner can use one.

Have your phone available so that if the connection is weak the phone can be used for audio. This way if the video freezes you can at least maintain the conversation.

Turn off all notifications on your phone or computer screen and/or switch to “do not disturb” mode. Close any other unrelated windows to reduce distractions.

To improve the stability of your connection, close out everything on your screen except your Zoom window and, if possible, move close to your router.

Take note of potential distractions (kids, dogs, the pile of work papers, etc.). I invite you not to get too frustrated by them, but rather to just notice, allow, and then return your focus. It can also be helpful to do some advance preparation to limit anticipated distractions.

To increase sound privacy, get a sound machine and place it just outside the door. I love the Lectrofan Micro, it can even be charged and used cordless.

Couples should be in the same room together except under rare circumstances.

For those with children, don’t be afraid to let your children know that you have a meeting with your therapist and ask them not to interrupt. It can be good for them to know that you are taking care of yourself, your relationship, and it sets an example of getting professional help when it’s needed. If they do interrupt don’t get too frustrated. Just acknowledge their immediate needs and then redirect them and return your focus.

If privacy at home is an issue, consider doing the session in your car or any other private space you have access to. Do you have access to your office even though many are not working there? Is there a conference room you can use? Would your clergy give you access to a room at your place of worship?

While it may be more difficult for the therapist to intuitively track your emotion and energetic shifts, this presents an opportunity for you to deepen awareness and articulate this moment to moment movement. This is a very useful skill to develop on your journey to healing.

With some mindfulness and preparation telehealth can be very successful…
Above all, please let us know how we can support you through this. Particularly, if there is anything we can do to make your telehealth experience more meaningful we want to hear about it. We are still here for you. Even though we may not be able to meet face-to-face, please know we are holding you close to our hearts. You are never alone.

Please note: If there is no way for you to overcome some of these barriers and you’d like to continue, it may be possible for us to see you in the office while maintaining safe social distancing guidelines. This will be considered on a case by case basis.

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