Since COVID-19, the team at Health, Counselling and Disability Services have been providing many more appointments via telehealth, namely telephone, Skype, Teams, Zoom, webex etc.
As someone who has received therapy before, including telehealth, I know that the experience of seeing someone via telehealth is quite different to face-to-face (f2f) .
The literature on the topic suggests that whilst the experience is different, you don’t lose anything therapeutically from shifting from f2f to telephone or videoconference. The change in mode doesn’t make it less effective or therapeutic.
But the shift in mode does require some adaptation from both the therapist and the client. In fact, both the therapist and the client have a role to play in making sure that telehealth appointments go well and are useful.
At our end, it means ensuring we communicate clearly the time/date of your appointment and how we will contact you, that we have a reliable connection (internet or phone reception), that our equipment is high quality so we can be seen and heard clearly, that we articulate ourselves well, that we use different methods to attune to your feelings and we check in more regularly during the session on how you are going and feeling.
But what about you?
What can you do at your end to make a telehealth appointment (particularly a counselling or disability one) go better so that you get more out of the process?
Make sure you put the appointment in your calendar/diary so you know it is happening 📅
Stay tuned to your SMS for any updates on the appointment. Please reply Y if going ahead with the appointment or N if you need to cancel 📱
Be ready for the call at least 10 minutes beforehand ⌚
Think about what you need to ask and what you want to share. If it helps, write it down in a short list. Writing down what you want to cover in the appointment can be very helpful if you experience some strong emotions during the appointment. ✍🏼
Make sure your device (phone, laptop, desktop) is charged and ready to go 💻
Do a test run with a friend to make sure any equipment/software you are using is working OK 🧑🏼☎👩🏾🦱
Ensure you are in a location with good reception (phone) and/or good internet and lighting (for video chats).📶
Use headphones to improve sound quality and also improve privacy 🎧
Make sure you are in a quiet, private and comfortable place. Use a ‘do not disturb’ sign if needed. You want to be in a space where you feel you can speak openly and honestly and not be concerned about someone listening in or noticing your emotional reactions.🤫
Have some water, tissues, pen and paper close to hand. Take notes if concepts come up that you think you should remember. 🥛 📜
Remember that depending on the format (e.g. phone) the counsellor/therapist might not be able to as easily read your emotional state, so try to articulate your situation as clearly as possible (this is helpful regardless of therapy mode to be honest). 🗣
Let your therapist know if their signal (video, audio) is not very good so they can adjust or call your back. 📡
If video chat is offered, consider saying yes or at least giving it a go. Whilst people are often a little more uncomfortable doing video chat, there are benefits in terms of being able to see the therapist as well as using the other video features (e.g. sharing documents, links, sharing screen etc). Once you get over the initial weirdness, most people find it a better experience. ✔💻
Remind yourself that although it feels different to have an appointment via telehealth, it can be equal to or better than a traditional f2f appointment if you are willing to work through the initial strangeness. 🙂