If you are a counselor, therapist, or psychologist used to seeing clients in the office, the coronavirus has certainly changed the way you work. No more office visits. Everything is now remote. As many mental health professionals struggle to make the transition to teletherapy, become familiar with the platform they are choosing to use, and help their clients adjust, here are three ways to make your teletherapy even more effective.
1. Invite Your Client To Discuss Their Thoughts About Teletherapy
When clients first come to the office for therapy, it is always helpful to look for ways to make things more comfortable for them. One way to do this is to ask them what it is like for them to come to therapy. From the minute they make the appointment, to the time they step into the office and meet you, often you will find a wealth of information, and in the process, help them feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings, however uncomfortable, with you.
As teletherapy is likely new for many clients, the transition can be a wonderful time to again lay the foundation for your client to express her thoughts to you. One great way to do this is simply to ask your client what teletherapy is like for them. Ask how they feel about not coming to the office, about doing therapy at home, about the process of getting online, or using the telephone, and about not seeing you in person. These questions can serve to make the transition more comfortable for your client, and also help you both navigate any uncomfortable components of teletherapy together.
2. Use Your Client’s Environment
When a client comes to the office, we have already taken steps to set it up in a way that we hope will make clients more comfortable. We may have placed our diplomas on the wall. We may have hung inspirational pictures or quotes. We have probably placed the furniture in a way that will help clients feel relaxed and comfortable.
However, when we use teletherapy, the environment our client is in is set up by our client. They may choose to attend their sessions with you from their office, their living room, or their bedroom. And, like you, they have also placed their furniture in a way that makes them feel comfortable and hung their pictures or paintings in a way that feels right to them.
Their room may be neat and tidy, or messy and disorganized. Whatever the case, you can ask your client to share their environment through video with you. And then, you can ask your client to describe why they have chosen to set up their environment as they have.
Much like your office is a reflection of you, your tastes and preferences, and, to some extent, your beliefs and values, so is your client’s environment. You may even find that there are components of your client’s environment that could be changed to help her feel even better.
3. Send Follow Up Messages
When we see a client in the office, we may have a practice of recapping what we worked on, revisiting the gains and progress they have made, reviewing any homework we assign and preparing for the work ahead. This is a wonderful way to keep the therapy sessions effective, organized, and helpful for the client.
With teletherapy, we have the opportunity to send our client follow-up messages with all of this information, which will make it easier for them to retain. According to HIPPA, “Non-public facing remote communication products would include, for example, platforms such as Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, Whatsapp video chat, Zoom, or Skype. Such products also would include commonly used texting applications such as Signal, Jabber, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Whatsapp, or iMessage.
Typically, these platforms employ end-to-end encryption, which allows only an individual and the person with whom the individual is communicating to see what is transmitted.” Once you choose the platform that works for you and your client, sending messages can be easy, helpful, and effective.
Teletherapy, while it is a big transition for many mental health professionals and clients alike, can be tremendously effective, and you may even find, with a few small steps, even preferable for you and your clients.
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:
E-Therapy: Ethics & Best Practices is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE) course that examines the advantages, risks, technical issues, legalities, and ethics of providing therapy online. Click here to learn more.
Ethics and Social Media is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that examines the use of Social Networking Services (SNS) on both our personal and professional lives. Click here to learn more.
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Professional Development Resources maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
PDR offers over 150 accredited online CE courses for healthcare professionals.
Target Audience: Psychologists, School Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), and Teachers