COVID-19’s ripple effects shook up a lot and raised several concerns, especially in the counseling space:
“How in the world do I do therapy through a computer?”
“Can I even connect with a person through a screen?”
“Therapy is strange enough in person; logging in to do it will make it more awkward.”
And that’s just from the therapists.
Being a client seems more confusing than comforting, more so if you’re starting therapy with a new counselor that you’ve never met in person. Is it still possible? Yes. Is it the same? No. Can it still work? Definitely, and it can work well with a few adjustments.
In the office, I have a whole ritual before I see I clients. I’d get there early, have coffee, read then I’d straighten the couch for clients, fluff the pillows and prepare to offer their preferred drink.
From home, I get to my home office at least a half-hour to do the same thing. I can’t offer clients the same amenities, but I do suggest you establishing a similar practice, even before checking your Wi-Fi connection.
First, find a comfortable spot. That may not be the kitchen table, counter, or desk. It could very well be a couch or even sitting up in your bed. That’s OK as long as you’re wearing clothes. Prepare ice water or coffee or tea – anything that helps you relax. Adjust your screen, ideally where you don’t have to hold your device, and click on your camera to see yourself and how you appear. This is not for your therapist; it’s for you to feel as comfortable as possible opening up to a stranger. After you’re OK with how you look, nothing says you must stare into the camera for the whole 50 minutes. You can breathe and just have a conversation.
Your therapist will likely still try to do whatever they can to ease your concerns about virtual counseling. Confidentiality will be strictly maintained. They’ll be in a closed space where no one can hear what you talk about, and your session will be protected so that no one can log in. Brief silence is OK. It’s not a work call, and it’s not an interview. It’s just you sharing your story, getting feedback, and working with your counselor for your journey through the therapeutic process.
And that’s where it’s not that different from sitting in your therapist’s office. Even during a pandemic, you can connect and feel connected to. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean emotional distancing, especially in therapy. We at Millennium Counseling Center will be happy to walk you through it. Hope remains available, just online for now.
DeVona Alleyne, LPC, M.Div.