I am pleased to be able to offer my clients online counseling sessions also known as telehealth, e-therapy, distance or video counseling. During the disruption of COVID-19 there are rapid changes in our world and families. You may want or need to see a professional counselor such as myself now more than ever. No shame in that as these are unprecedented times with lots of uncertainty! Relationship concerns with your spouse, boss, parents, or children are often heightened in times of change in routine and times when we are alternating between social distancing and spending more time together with immediate family in close quarters.
Because I care about the health of my clients and myself, my practice has gone entirely on line for the time being. My practice management system, SimplePractice, has made the transition technologically very easy. I am fortunate to have a comfortable home office with plenty of privacy.
Online counseling is not for everyone or helpful in every situation. It takes some getting used to, but the more we work together the more comfortable it becomes. Thankfully, having had some excellent training and doing this for a few weeks now, I am convinced that most clients who want to do this are finding it helpful and making it happen even if we have to meet virtually in a car, garage, or out on a deck.
I have discovered that video sessions simply are different, not better or worse than face-to-face counseling in an established office. Video has both advantages and disadvantages. I love counseling in my comfortable office in West County. I miss not being able to greet new clients in our waiting room with a welcoming smile and warm handshake. When sessions are online we have to acknowledge that some experiences are going to be different. That seems to put everyone at ease.
But, video can have some advantages, as well. Since we are only getting a shoulder on up view, video can create a stronger connection in many ways. I’m finding that even for couples counseling video usually works well. Not to make you self-conscious, but I am finding that I can more easily pick up on your voice, eyes and face. And I suppose my clients can do the same with me. I might have to ask you to repeat what you have said or ask your partner what is happening in the room, since your full body isn’t in my line of vision. This can be very helpful in emphasizing the experience.
Finally, there are a few things we both can do to make this platform work well below:
Suggestions For Enhancing Your Online Counseling Experience:
- Find a quiet location with as few interruptions as possible. Try to minimize distractions from your phone or children, but leave your phone on in case we run into a technical glitch. I sometimes meet children and pets online which is fine with me if it doesn’t distract you.
- Chrome or Firefox will work better than Safari as browser if you are on a Mac.
- Pay attention to your lighting. Windows behind you don’t allow me to see your face. Lighting in front of you is much better.
- You might want to wear earbuds or headphones when speaking to me when others are in the house. This is particularly important when a couple is doing Discernment Counseling with me.
- You may want to prop your computer up on a couple of books so you’re not looking down all the time. Also, if I’m staring at your ceiling fan I might get a little queasy 🙂
- Have an internet connection with both a fast bandwidth and upload speed. An ethernet cable that connects your modem to your computer often helps if your screen is pixilating or you are getting wonky reception.
- When at all possible, please use a laptop or computer rather than your phone or tablet. If you have to use your phone please prop it up so you’re not having to hold it all during our session.
- Couples should each receive an invitation to join the session. The link is sent through your email reminder. When logging in, make sure both your audio mic and video are engaged.
- Have your phone nearby in case we need to troubleshoot a bad connection.
- Couples do best sitting side by side in front of the same screen — one more reason that phones don’t work very well for this. Likewise, one of you sitting in front of the other throws the balance of the session off.
- Lastly, try to be patient. Technology during bad weather or times of high volume can be challenging at times. Be willing to stop and start again if connectivity is poor.