6 Tips to Make Therapy From Home Less Stressful

Three local therapists share their tips for keeping your at-home teletherapy sessions private and easy.

From maintaining privacy to staying consistent, here’s how to make the most out of your teletherapy sessions. / Photograph courtesy of Getty Images.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused so many of us to keep our distance from others. Along with causing general stress, the shelter-in-place orders can bring on feelings of fear, anxiety, and loneliness. But just because you might be apart from others doesn’t mean you’re alone.

Fortunately, access to virtual healthcare services is so much easier now, thanks to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services relaxing telehealth constraints. If you’re looking to start or continue therapy sessions, there are a ton of virtual therapy options in the Philly area. To help you feel at ease and comfortable while you speak to a counselor over the phone or online, we turned to three local mental health pros for their teletherapy tips. That way, you can focus on your session without distractions.

Choose an appropriate location

All our experts remind us that a therapy session should serve as a safe haven from stressors — a place where you can clearly focus on yourself. Recreating this private, “me” time space can prove somewhat difficult at home, especially if you don’t live alone. To maintain the boundary of privacy for teletherapy, choose a location in which you feel free to speak your mind without concern over being overheard, according to Eric Spiegel, licensed psychologist and practice director at Attune Philadelphia Therapy Group.

If you don’t have a viable indoor space, there are still options! Julie Jacobson, licensed professional counselor at Emerge Wellness, says you can hop on the phone with your therapist while going on a walk outside, socially distancing in a park, or sitting in your parked car (as long as it’s parked in a safe place).

Maintain privacy in other ways

For folks who have housemates and don’t want to chat outdoors, you can still keep things confidential at home. Licensed professional counselor Nicole Ciccone offers two tips for maintaining privacy. First, Ciccone herself has a white noise machine placed right outside her office (at work and at home) to help muffle noise. If you don’t want to invest in the machine, you can have music playing outside the room you’re in to drown out some of the conversation. Additionally, Ciccone encourages clients to use headphones while in session, so that at least the therapist’s voice remains unheard by others.

Get comfortable

Jacobson says one of the benefits of teletherapy is a sense of safety and familiarity that comes from being home, especially during high-stress times. Before your call, make sure your location makes you feel relaxed. That means removing any distractions, moving to a space that isn’t cluttered, or utilizing a diffuser with essential oils.

When it comes to a video call, she reminds us that there’s no pressure to maintain eye contact during telesessions. If you’re not comfortable looking directly at the camera, it’s okay look away! Or, if it’s distracting to see your own face on the screen, you might feel comfortable putting a post-it in the corner of your screen or changing the display settings.

Plan for connection issues

Like everything technology-related we’ve been doing from home, you’ll want to plan for connection issues. All our experts recommend discussing a back-up plan with your therapist prior to meeting in case one or both of you experience technical difficulties. For instance, if the internet becomes unstable, Jacobson says you should know who will initiate a phone call in order to resume the meeting.

Be consistent with sessions

If possible, you’ll want to stay consistent with your teletherapy. Spiegel says doing so can provide a sense of stability and connectedness. “Having the structure is important, particularly in these times where there is a lot less of it to go around,” he says. “Structure leads to consistency, which is therapeutic in and of itself.”

In terms of when to plan sessions, Ciccone recommends considering your lifestyle. “You’ll want to make sure you schedule your appointment for a time with limited distractions (like work and children), so you can be fully present,” she says.

Take it in stride

These are strange times for everyone, therapists included. Spiegel says it’s okay to talk about the “elephant in the room,” and using it as a way to discuss what needs and fears this modality brings up for you. Additionally, Jacobson encourages you to be gentle with yourself as you navigate new terrain, as adjusting to this new format might take a few sessions to get used to. “Something to remember is that your therapist is here to support you and hold space for you virtually until we are able to meet in person again,” she says.

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