In addition to checking your internet, you will also want to get familiar with the tool your therapist uses before that first appointment, which should also be HIPAA compliant, advises Ejelonu. Sort out any technical issues early, like confirming an account, creating a password, making sure your camera is working, and that your computer or phone are fully charged.
Make a List
“Have something that you would like to start talking about or at least, a starting point,” says Tiarra Morris, a licensed clinical mental health counselor and a licensed clinical addiction specialist in North Carolina. My sessions with Morris, who I connected with via Open Path Psychotherapy Collective, begin pre-pandemic, in person. A month into Covid, we decided to transition to virtual sessions, which was smoother than I anticipated. Telehealth was already a service that Morris provided before the pandemic pushed many of us to virtual therapy, so she’s familiar with how to make it work. Since the pandemic, Morris has received a steady flow of referrals and has taken on new clients who are totally virtual.
Making a list can seem like a tall order during a pandemic. But it doesn’t have to be a complete or detailed list. In fact, it could be as simple as the stressors that come with living during a crisis. Ejelonu doesn’t prepare much for a therapy session, she says, unless there’s a conversation she knows she wants to reflect on. “Then I will write it out to make sure that I remember to mention it.”
I also find myself jotting down, usually on a Post-it note I stick to my wall or desk, a few topics I want to discuss with my therapist that may come up between sessions—an upsetting situation at work, for instance. The note helps to jog my memory, especially since stress and anxiety can cause memory lapse. I make the list for myself and share the topics I’d like to discuss once the session begins.
Be Present and Comfortable
One of the benefits of telehealth is that you can be anywhere and connect with your counselor. But Morris cautions against attempting to have a counseling session while driving, multitasking, or doing any number of activities that will distract you from your session. To help clients get present, Morris recommends “a setting that is safe and familiar. For example, if you have a favorite sitting place inside your home that makes you feel relaxed and comfortable—try it out for your virtual therapy session.”
As a client, you will also want to make sure that your space is free of distractions. Finding a distraction-free location during a time where many Americans are working from home (and many students are going to school remotely) may prove difficult. Davis encourages “people to put their devices on Do Not Disturb, because receiving a text message or receiving a phone call can serve as a therapy distraction.”
If virtual therapy isn’t accessible for you, there are other resources that may suit you well.
Instagram Accounts Give a Boost
Once I ended my habit of doomscrolling through social media, I started to come across a whole new world of uplifting, mostly free, emotional wellness content. This comes in handy when I want to listen in on sound therapy, practice a few yoga moves, or learn deep-breathing techniques. Emotional and mental wellness pages on social media not only offer tips and advice that can help you get centered, they also allow you to practice in a virtual community—if you want to. Perhaps virtual therapy isn’t financially accessible or desirable at this moment, but you are looking for other forms of support. Here are a few sites that can help you prioritize your mental and emotional health and wellness.
A “wellness concept and café” featuring monthly memberships for virtual yoga, energy work, meditation, breath work, and other healing modalities. While Heal Haus offers individual sessions, it also provides a Virtual Workplace Wellness program to help organizations center workplace mindfulness. Once you create an account, it is easy to sign up for classes. The IGTV videos are a great introduction to what you can expect from Heal Haus classes.
I’m newly experiencing the transformative powers of rest. But since 2016, the Nap Ministry has been letting us know that naps and rest are sacred and liberating. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults age 26 to 64 need seven to nine hours of sleep. The Nap Ministry calls us to integrate deep rest into our lives—and offers ideas for rest such as taking longer showers, daydreaming, slow dancing, having a sound bath, or doing a few yoga poses.