Coronavirus has turned our world upside down. There’s no denying the unprecedented impact this pandemic has had on our daily lives. We’re bombarded with news on the ongoing consequences of the outbreak. In fact, we don’t even have to watch the news. We can just look around. Many businesses that couldn’t switch to remote work are unable to operate and have shut down, and those of us who were lucky enough to work from home now have to multi-task and watch after our kids because of school closures. We can no longer do normal things like go to a restaurant or on holiday. It feels surreal. Our hands are sore from so much sanitizer, and we’re constantly wondering if we have enough face masks or if we’ll be able to buy more.
Understandably, this situation, coupled with social distancing measures, has resulted in higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression – all symptoms that would motivate us to see a therapist. Well, as you would expect, many therapists are no longer able to conduct in-person sessions and have switched to providing mental health services online. Luckily, online therapy has been around for quite some time, so we already had the tools and experience necessary for a smooth transition. If you’re reading this article, you may be thinking of trying online therapy, but you’re not sure what to expect. Let’s explore.
What to expect from our first online therapy session
First of all, if you’re wondering whether online therapy is as effective as traditional, face-to-face therapy, the research we have so far suggests that it is. The psychotherapists you will find on online therapy platforms are required to have the same level of training and credentials as their offline counterparts. There are some setbacks, such as greater difficulty in interpreting body language. Face-to-face, your therapist relies on body language cues to interpret your emotion which means that, during online sessions, you will have to provide them with more verbal feedback. There’s also the issue of technical difficulties such as poor audio or video quality and unstable internet connection, but those are quite rare because of the technological advancements made in recent years.
There are also many benefits inherent to online therapy. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many people who otherwise wouldn’t seek help did so because they had access to this medium. Here we’re referring to clients that lived in remote areas with little to no access to mental health services, clients that were discouraged by the stigma around psychotherapy or who were simply intimidated by the idea of sitting across the room from a stranger and talking about very personal aspects of their lives.
Much like with traditional therapy, during your first session, your therapist will ask you about your goals. They’ll approach this subject by asking something like “What brings you here?” or “What made you decide to try psychotherapy?”. They do this because an essential aspect of psychotherapy is that you set your own goals, and your therapist helps you achieve them. They don’t decide what’s best for you. That’s up to you.
You can expect to feel a bit apprehensive or nervous during your first session. Although you’ll feel more comfortable because you’re at home, in a familiar setting, you are still in a situation where you want to talk about personal struggles with someone you only just met. It’s important that you talk about these concerns with your therapist and, based on your feedback, it’s part of their job to make you feel safe, and at ease, so you can open up.