By: Sam Dylan Finch
1. Carve out a safe space and intentional time for therapy
The emotional nature of therapy makes it even more important to have some space and time set aside to engage with this process fully. If you’re self-isolating with another person, you could also ask them to wear headphones or take a walk outside while you do therapy. It may also beneficial for you and if it is a partner, to join into the therapy session with you. No matter what you decide, make sure you’re prioritizing therapy and doing it in an environment that feels safest for you.
2. Be flexible with the format of your therapy
Some therapy platforms use a combination of messaging, audio, and video, while others are a typical session over webcam. If you have options, it’s worth exploring what combination of text, audio, and video works best for you. One of the benefits of teletherapy is that you have a lot of different tools at your disposal. Be open to experimenting!
3. Lean into the unique parts of telemedicine
There are some things you can do with online therapy that you can’t necessarily do in-person. For example, I can’t bring my cats to an in-person therapy session, but it’s been special to introduce my therapist to my furry companions over webcam. Getting creative with how you use the tools available so you can make online therapy feel a lot more engaging.
4. In the absence of bodily cues, practice naming your emotions more explicitly
If you’ve been in in-person therapy for a while, you may be used to your therapist observing your bodily cues and facial expressions, and sort of “intuiting” your emotional state. This is why it can be really beneficial to practice naming our emotions and reactions more explicitly. For instance, if your therapist says something that strikes a nerve, it can be powerful to pause and say, “When you shared that with me, I found myself feeling frustrated.”
Similarly, learning to be more descriptive around our emotions can give our therapists useful information in the work that we do. Rather than saying “I’m tired,” we might say “I’m drained/burnt out.” Instead of saying “I’m feeling down,” we might say, “I’m feeling a mix of anxiety and helplessness.”
These are useful skills in self-awareness regardless, but online therapy is a great excuse to start flexing those muscles in a safe environment.
5. Be willing to name what you need even if it seems ‘silly’
With COVID-19 in particular, an active pandemic means that many of us if not all are struggling with getting some of our most fundamental human needs met. Whether that’s remembering to eat and drink water consistently, grappling with loneliness, or being fearful for yourself or loved ones, this is a difficult time to be a “grownup.” Taking care of ourselves is going to be a challenge at times. It can be tempting to invalidate our responses to COVID-19 as being an “overreaction,” which can make us reluctant to disclose or ask for help. However, your therapist is working with clients every day who undoubtedly share your feelings and struggles. You aren’t alone.
Remember that there’s no issue too big or too small to bring to your therapist. Anything that’s impacting you is worth talking about, even if it might seem trivial to someone else.