How To Get The Most Out Of Teletherapy

Since the pandemic started, more therapists and clients had to transition from in-office appointments to teletherapy or psychotherapy through video calls. It is important to remember that there is more to change than a new venue and technology. As a client, some of the things you can do to get the most from your online sessions are very important.

1. Ask Questions

Therapists are responsible for getting your informed consent to participate in teletherapy, so you have most likely already received information on what to expect from the process. But you may still have questions about privacy, how to use video software, the risks, and benefits of teletherapy, or what to do in an emergency. So it is a good idea to talk to your therapist and to make sure you both are on the same page as you move forward.

2. Choose A Focus Area Or Two

If there is no clear direction, therapy sessions can go by quickly and be unproductive, so write down what you feel is important before the session and then you and your therapist can address it in the time you have together. If you have trouble coming up with ideas, consider a setback from the previous week, an ongoing problem, or an upcoming challenge that you would like your therapist to consider with you.

3. Give Some Thought To What You Hope To Achieve

Are you ambivalent or conflicted about an issue and unsure of how to resolve it? Do you hope to come to a conclusion about how to understand yourself, a relationship, or a future challenge? Have you noticed a behavioral problem (too much of one behavior or not enough of another) and you need help to figure out how to change it? Is it difficult to take care of personal responsibilities? Are you having a hard time at work, school, or in a relationship? Are you overwhelmed by emotion and can’t figure out where it comes from, what it means to you, or how to respond to it? Is there something you would like to achieve before the next session and need help to know how to make all this happen?

The more specific you can be about your concerns and what you would like to happen by the end of your session, the better. If you express these ideas at the beginning of the session, you and your therapist can move quickly to clarify focus areas and goals, and then spend the majority of the time being productive in your work together.

4. Take Notes

There can be a lot of information during a session. You do not have to remember each detail, but if you have meaningful insight or your therapist makes a great point, give yourself the opportunity to benefit in the future from these ideas by writing them down.

As you go through the session, keep a notebook by your computer and write down information. If you have ever experienced in therapy that you “need to remember that” but could not recall the discussion later, you will be thankful you took a moment to record it in your notebook. If you can leave the session with 3-5 key ideas, you will get much more from the process than you would if you solely rely on your memory.

5. Make A Plan For Homework

Much of what is beneficial about therapy happens through the work you do after your sessions. You and your therapist should give some thought to what would be good for you to work on before your next appointment. If you are going to therapy to address anxiety-related concerns, you might be doing exposure tasks for therapy homework to reinforce the benefits of in-office exposures done with your therapist. As you transition into therapy, you may not be able to do some exposures in video sessions, so it is good to collaborate with your therapist to determine how you will do this work on your own.

Even if you are not in therapy for anxiety, it is valuable to prepare for homework in between sessions. If you are struggling with depression, you and your therapist might plan creative ways to increase activity that leads to pleasure and a sense of accomplishment. If you have trouble expressing your needs to your partner, you might prepare yourself to be more assertive in your communication. If you get overwhelmed by your inner experience, your homework might involve mindfulness practice, worry journaling, or responding to thinking traps with more realistic and useful thoughts.

If you are not used to doing out-of-office therapy homework, start off with simple ideas. Collaborating with your therapist to find the smallest change you still consider meaningful and then make a commitment to engage in the homework practice as close to daily as possible.