It’s 2020, and we’re in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Our lives have changed so much that it almost doesn’t feel real. These changes have, understandably, led to higher levels of stress and anxiety, but social distancing measures have made it more difficult to gain access to mental health services.
Over the past few years, online counselling and psychotherapy have seen a rise in popularity, long before any news of COVID-19. Nowadays, as counsellors and psychotherapists have had to close their offices and switch to online platforms, even more people are considering it. It can be a challenging transition, but a very rewarding one.
What is online counselling? As the name suggests, online counselling is just like traditional, face-to-face counselling but done with the help of technology. The studies we have so far indicate that it’s just as effective. The counsellors need to have the same level of training and you, as the client, are the one that chooses what counsellor you’re most comfortable working with. Most platforms will give you access to a database of mental health professionals, and you can read their bios, see their pictures and check their credentials.
If you’ve been thinking of making the switch to online counselling, but you don’t know what to expect, let’s look at some tips on how to make the most of it. Much like traditional counselling, it can be awkward at first, but it doesn’t have to be.
The right time and place
One of the most frequently mentioned benefits of online counselling is that it can be done anytime and anywhere. That may be so, from a practical viewpoint, but it’s not necessarily the recommended approach. You can look at counselling as an important commitment you make to yourself. The emotional aspect of this commitment makes it essential to find the right time and place so you can fully engage with the process.
Since you’ll be speaking to your counsellor from home, you’ll feel more comfortable but, if you’re living with other people, you need to make sure you get privacy for the duration of the session. This is also not something you want to squeeze in between doing house chores. To get the most out of online counselling, you need to give it your full attention.
Take care of technical aspects
Another important tip is to minimise the risk of technical issues interfering with your sessions. After you’ve chosen your therapist and scheduled your first session, make sure you download the software you’ll be using so you have time to familiarize yourself with the interface. Most likely, you’ll receive instructions on what steps you need to take and what the different features do. It’s best to check if the software recognizes your microphone and webcam and if you’re getting good video and sound quality.
A few minutes before every session, you’ll want to check your internet connection and quickly go through the technical checklist. If your Wi-Fi signal tends to be a bit unstable, you can use the ethernet cable directly or through a USB adaptor.
Set your goals
No matter what platform or medium you use for counselling, you’ll want to prepare a set of goals. If you’re already familiar with traditional counselling, you know that during the first session, your counsellor will ask you what you hope to gain from this experience. This is because they don’t decide for you. They’re there to help you achieve the things you want from yourself.
We also recommend that you write down any questions and concerns you wish to discuss. Your goals can change with time, but it’s important that you maintain clear and honest communication throughout the process.