Tips to Make Online Therapy Work For You​

Dr. Melanie Chinchilla was recently interviewed by Holly Pevzner of  Psycom, the 3rd largest site in the US that focuses exclusively on mental health. She shared useful tips on how to make online therapy work for you. 

Below are excerpts from Holly Pevzner’s article on “How To Make Online Therapy Work For You. “

Embrace The Ease

“Teletherapy allows you to see your therapist without the commute time, which can be a huge plus for many,” says Melanie Chinchilla, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in San Francisco. “Clients with busy schedules, parents who are staying at home, and those with limited ability or access to appointments really enjoy the flexibility.” In addition, you have access to professionals throughout your state, dramatically expanding your network of potential therapists. “This is particularly important for those living in rural areas or places where there aren’t many licensed therapists,” says Chinchilla.

 

Make Room For Hiccups

A glitchy internet connection, frozen screens, bandwidth issues: Whether you’re in the middle of a Netflix marathon or therapy session, technology malfunctions happen. While it’s near impossible to prevent 100 percent of these interruptions, it is possible to expect that they could happen and have a backup plan for when they do. “I recommend you have your cell phone nearby and that your therapist knows the phone number so he or she can readily reach you if necessary,” says Chinchilla.

It’s also a good idea to give yourself about 15 minutes to get settled and signed into your teletherapy session before your scheduled appointment. “This allows room for potential delays,” says Chinchilla. Also smart: If you’re operating off your internet, help ensure a good connection by unplugging internet-connected electronics, like your Alexa, Ring, Nest, or Roku. “And close out of things on your laptop, phone or computer that may be running in the background, like cloud backups and security scans,” says Murray.

Create a Therapy Space

In-person therapy sessions are in quiet and confidential spaces away from friends, family, roommates—and pets. “It’s key to make sure you have that same sort of space with teletherapy so that you can freely talk about the issues that matter without distraction,” says Chinchilla. If you share your household with others, let them know you will be in an important meeting during your session to reduce the chances of interruption. “And no one should be in the next room where they can hear you or your therapist speaking,” says Chinchilla.

If that’s impossible, try putting a sound machine outside your door and/or using high-quality headphones during your sessions. And if you’re struggling to find a private spot, get creative: The car, the bathroom and on a walk may all work. And, perhaps most importantly, don’t interrupt yourself. Silence your phone, close all other computer windows and turn off your email and chat features on your computer.

Aim For Video, If Possible

There are numerous vehicles to deliver teletherapy, like email, text and phone. While the one you’re most comfortable with is the one for you, Chinchilla prefers video. “I think simultaneous, real-time video and voice teletherapy is the best option because it allows you and your therapist to use non-verbal communication, like facial expressions and hand gestures to express yourselves,” she says. If video isn’t available, a phone is the next best option. “This permits you to communicate information through your tone, cadence and rate of speech, too,” says Chinchilla.

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