Finding a therapist you click with (and can afford) is often hard and even anxiety-provoking. But finding a therapist isn’t the only potential hurdle when it comes to looking after your mental health. Taking the time to trek to your appointment, spill your feelings, then commute to the next stop on your list can sometimes be even harder.
Enter teletherapy, also called telepsychology, which allows you to talk to a therapist remotely through technology. But how do you make the most of teletherapy? Here are the ins and outs of telepsychology, plus how to maximize your appointments.
“My relationships with my teletherapy clients are just as nuanced and rich as those I have with my other clients,” Nicole Issa, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in New York and Massachusetts who sees some of her patients digitally, tells SELF.
Teletherapy also means you’re generally able to have sessions somewhere you are comfortable. Issa notes that the safety of being in your own space may help you open up emotionally. This is part of what Allyson N., a 31-year-old based in Boston, enjoyed about her experience with teletherapy. “A lot of the time I would get emotional during our [sessions],” Allyson tells SELF. “It is always more comfortable feeling that way at home rather than in an office that you know you have to walk out of.”
If you’re going to engage in teletherapy, you should make sure that you’re using a secure, encrypted, HIPAA-compliant system.
Going through these steps can help calm some of your pre-appointment nerves:
1. Before your sessions, jot down some notes on what you want to cover. “If you were traveling to a therapy session in person, then you would have some time to collect your thoughts or at the very least have a change of scenery while you travel to the session,” says Issa. “Some clients really enjoy a few minutes in their therapists’ waiting room to collect their thoughts. You can absolutely do the same thing at home.”
2. Make sure you’re in a private place where you can minimize background noise, interruptions, and distractions, says Issa.
3. Also make sure you have good cell and internet connection, Mariea Snell, D.N.P., an assistant professor of the online doctor of nursing practice programs at Maryville University in St. Louis, tells SELF. “The major thing that hinders these sessions is connectivity,” says Snell, who sees patients with mental health concerns using teletherapy. If you can hold a conversation on FaceTime or stream a YouTube video, that’s a good sign.
4. Check that you’re using the best browser for the service you’re connecting through. Often, the company will state which one this is upfront. Make sure it’s up to date before your conversation. Same thing if you’re using an app.