1. Ensure that your therapist offers video/phone appointment services
First and foremost, you need to ask your therapist if he/she/they offer video or phone appointment services. Some may not, but my guess is that most therapists will be moved to begin offering this service in light of recent events.
2. Check that your insurance company will cover video/phone therapy services
It is best to call to speak with your insurance company directly to be certain that your video or phone appointments will be covered. It is also a good idea to ask if there is a cap on home many of those types of appointments you are allowed to utilize. In my recent experience, it does appear that most major insurance companies are covering most telehealth services, but insurance can be finicky, so play it safe and give them a call.
3. Make sure that your wi-fi and patient login are working prior to your appointment
The last thing you want to do is wait until your appointment time to find out that your wi-fi or the platform that you’re meeting with your therapist through is not working. It can take precious time out of your scheduled appointment, so it’s important to know whether or not everything is working prior to your appointment. Most therapists are able to be flexible and to help walk you through the process, but it’s always best to be proactive. I had my first video appointment with my therapist at the beginning of this week, and unfortunately, the platform we were using was not working due to so many people using it at once. An issue that is, of course, understandable given the state of the world right now, so my therapist and I were both flexible and switched to a phone appointment. Hiccups are going to happen, so it helps to keep remain as calm as possible and adjust as necessary.
*As an aside, many of the platforms therapists use for teletherapy will also work on your smartphone. So you may not need to worry about needing to have wifi or a computer, and solely rely on your cell phone service, much in the same way you would use an app like FaceTime or skype.
4. Find yourself a quiet, private space
Find a space where you feel the most comfortable to have a chat with your therapist. It may be beneficial to utilize headphones, so that you feel like you have more privacy. I know that finding privacy may be difficult for some of us, due to everyone being home right now. For me, my husband, my son, and our chihuahua are all home right now in our two-bedroom townhome, so it was a little difficult to feel like I had total privacy, but I was able to go in my bedroom, while my husband entertained our son in the living room. It wasn’t ideal, and it didn’t feel completely comfortable, but once I started talking with my therapist, it felt like a normal session. I know not everyone is going to have even the privacy of their own bedroom right now, but if you can find a place to watch those weird YouTube videos, I know you all watch, you can make space for yourself to receive the support that is so important right now.
5. Be flexible
It’s incredibly important to remain flexible. Your first video or phone session may feel odd, and you may not like it at first, but it is something that we can all get used to. Your therapist is trained to connect with patients in many different ways, but it may take some adjusting for him/her/them as well. You will find your groove. It does take extra effort on both sides. I know it felt very odd for me to be talking to my therapist on the phone; especially, because I thrive on reading body language, so I have a hard time on the phone with anyone. I wasn’t sure how that would translate with my therapist, but by me being more descriptive about how I was feeling, and her listening intently, and, most likely, picking up on my more anxious tone of voice, it was able to be a productive session.
Bottom line: Our mental health continues to remain as important as our physical health, so as we all are working harder to protect our physical bodies, we need to work just as hard to protect our mental health as well. It is going to take extra effort on everyone’s part, but we will all get through this together.
Additional Mental Health Resources
Visit the National Institute of Mental Health website for a list of resources: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml
Meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace are currently offering free content as well.