What to Expect from Online Therapy

Nathan Perkins • June 16, 2020

Thinking About Online Therapy? 9 Things to Expect

A study conducted by Healthline found that the symptoms of many kinds of mental illnesses (like depression and anxiety) are on the rise in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, the pandemic forced us all inside with minimal social contact and left us alone to fear a super-contagious disease with no cure. Add to that the fact that quarantine removes many people’s coping mechanisms, and this rise is far from surprising.

However, living in the Internet age gives us a counter to this: online therapy. But what should you expect going into this virtual counseling?

Well, you’re in luck. We’re here to give you the top 9 things to expect if you decide to receive online therapy!

But enough preamble, right? Let’s jump right in.

1. Get Matched Up

Before you meet with your “official” therapist, you’ll often have the first meeting with a special counselor who will work to match you up with the therapist that will help you best. Factors they often consider are geographical location (in case you want to meet the therapist in-person down the line) or why you are coming to them (as different therapists specialize in different areas). They’ll even work to match you up with someone of the same cultural background and/or gender if that makes you more comfortable.

2. Make Sure You’re in an Environment Conducive to Online Therapy

When engaging in online therapy, it’s important to make sure you’re in an environment where you feel safe and won’t feel distracted. Though many online therapists have a system in place where they can be reached anytime, it’s also important to try and set a regular schedule for yourself with your therapy so it feels more natural. If you’re not comfortable or you’re too distracted, you won’t get the most out of your sessions.

3. Consider Which Format You Want to Use

It’s important to take some time to think about which format of receiving therapy would work best for you. Talking over text will help ease first-time nervousness, but your therapist can’t observe your body language or tone in texts. Considering 55% of communications get conveyed through body language, this is an important cost to weigh.Â

Video chat is the most helpful when it comes to your therapist’s ability to “read” you, but is more difficult to schedule and often proves more awkward the first time around. Audio chat works as a middleman between the two options. Consider which method works best for your current situation and bring that up to your therapist.

That said, try to remain flexible for different methods. In the event your therapist wants to try switching to a different format, they are doing so because they think it will accelerate the healing process. So, unless you have a strict reason for preferring a certain method, try to keep an open mind.

4. It’s Awkward at First

That said, your first few meetings have the chance of feeling awkward for you (and more than often will). It’s difficult to open up to someone for the first time, and even text conversations can carry the anxiety of “Why didn’t they reply yet?”. When this happens, try to keep an open line of communication with your therapist and communicate how you’re feeling.

If you close off, your therapist will have a difficult time helping you.

5. Take Advantage of the COVID-19 Pandemic “Setting”

As ridiculous as it sounds at first, there are unique opportunities getting quarantined at home provides you concerning therapy. Besides getting therapy from the comfort of your own home, you can show your therapist what you’re passionate about or things that are important to you. Add to this the fact that you can contact your therapist more easily (thanks to the digital medium), and you’ve got a great recipe for making your online counseling sessions even more personal and stronger.

6. Convey your Emotions as Clear as Possible

To compensate for the “loss” of body language in communication with your therapist, make sure that you’re being as descriptive as you can about your emotions and exactly how you feel. For example, instead of saying “I’m feeling very stressed out lately”, you could say “I’m finding it difficult to do my work from home because of how stressed I’m feeling right now”. The clearer you are, the more your therapist can help you.

7. First Session Stuff

If you’re asking yourself “What should I expect at my first counseling session?”, you can rest easy knowing it’s not too intensive. Your therapist will want to cover two main categories. The first category is reviewing whatever “contract” is in place between you and them so you know who they can disclose information to and other legal information like that.

The second category involves getting background info from you so they can begin to build a “file” on you. This will often concern stuff like family history and any past diagnoses of mental illness.

8. Don’t be Scared to Give Feedback

It’s important to let your therapist know if a technique they are trying isn’t working for you. They can’t read your mind, and they don’t want to push forward on any techniques that aren’t helping you. As long as you keep an active dialogue going, your therapy won’t stagnate.

This even includes if you feel your current therapist doesn’t seem to fit with you. If that’s the case, your therapist will be more than happy to help you find someone more your speed.

9. It Takes Time

Finally, you must keep in mind that even the best therapy takes time to work. As discouraging as it feels at times, be patient, and give it time.  Expecting instant results will prevent you from forming an essential connection with your therapist and prevent you from getting the healing you need.

A Brighter Future

And there you have it! Now that you know the top 9 things to expect with online counseling, you’re ready to pursue it yourself! If you think online therapy is the route for you, reach out to us and see how we can help you feel better!