Since the embryonic stages of the pandemic, I’ve experienced the most dramatic shift in my cognitive-behavioral therapy practice since I started over 25 years ago. If someone showed me a crystal ball two years ago and said that many psychologists nationwide would opt to have virtual sessions over in-person sessions, I would have dismissed it as an unfathomable prediction.
However, over the past eighteen months, all my clientele from my New York and Westport, CT offices have embraced my moving to virtual therapy. In fact, in a survey conducted by Online Therapy.com, 47% of therapists say they like virtual sessions more than in-person sessions, and 55% attribute it to the elimination of their daily commute, which gives them more time to work. 41% of therapists also find clients more open via video chat or phone. 63% or respondents felt it’s easier to stay focused during virtual sessions.
In my business, fortunately 95% of my clients have responded positively to virtual sessions after having time to adjust to the process. My fundamental approach has always been to develop a customized and nurturing reciprocal relationship that encourages honesty and transparency.
If you’re contemplating trying virtual therapy, or just want to enhance your current sessions, here are several techniques that have proven effective for my clients. However, these techniques require that you do most of the heavy lifting. No one knows what you need to work on better than you.
- My first suggestion is to let your therapist know whether you have any trepidation about virtual therapy. If a client does, I suggest a re-evaluation period after two to three sessions to assess whether they’ve become comfortable with the virtual model. Achieving and maintaining reciprocal transparency with my clients requires them to express what’s working and what’s not. So, speak up, so you can address concerns together.
- Develop an agenda or strategy for what you want to focus on and achieve in therapy. It’s critical to set your own treatment goals, not the therapist. Your treatment is most effective when you’re motivated to work on specific issues. There may be times when you veer off-course in a session and want to talk about something new, and that’s fine. Therapy is not an iron-clad process, and there’s always room for flexibility and change.
- To prepare for your session, write brief notes or a list of bullet points of what you want to address in the session. You can do it on paper or on your phone. Include any specific “homework” assignments as well. Taking the time to write mental notes will make your sessions far more productive.
- If you want to share visual materials or homework assignments with your therapist, take photos of the materials and share them in advance, rather than trying to hold up an object in real time over the camera. It will help sustain the continuity of your session and create a more seamless virtual environment.
We’re all flawed, and as a therapist, I’m no different. The flaws we choose to work on should be ours to choose from. You may or may not determine virtual therapy sessions are optimal for you. The key is to find the therapist that works the best for you. If you opt not to continue, they should be able to make suggestions and refer you therapists who prefer in-person sessions.
Keep in mind, if at any point during your virtual therapy, you feel it has become unhealthy, toxic, or not productive, don’t be afraid to leave. There are many very talented therapists to choose from.