Updated: Apr 2, 2020
By Chay Tanchanco, LMFT
As you know, we are currently facing an extension of shelter in place for our safety and health. We are feeling the pressure of two seemingly opposing needs: the need for survival and the need for freedom. Both are incredibly important; both are part of what makes our lives worth living.
As a result of the constant tension between opposing needs, we are in an elevated state of anxiety as a world community. It is normal to feel stressed after a long day of "doing nothing". It is warranted that we may feel guilt as we watch others suffer with illness or struggle on the frontlines of providing for a society in crisis.
Because of this, reaching out for help is more important than ever.
Because of technology, we here at Foresight are thankfully able to provide that help.
There may be some hesitation in using video or audio chat as a means to get therapeutic support. If shelter in place has taught us anything, it is that there is no perfect substitute for in-person connection. We may not feel comfortable talking to our therapists through the phone or online; we may miss the safety of the therapy office and the soothing environment of a space dedicated to confidentiality.
Despite these truths, we must do what we can with the resources we have. Continuity of care is essential to our emotional progress, which echoes throughout our society. It is not merely a selfish act to prioritize our emotions, rather I would argue we are doing the world a favor when we are in tune with ourselves.
That all being said, here are some ways to make the transition to telehealth more comfortable, and make the most of a difficult time:
1. Tell your therapist about your concerns.
If you've been seeing your therapist for awhile, you have a relationship. Our main priority as your mental health professional is working through your fears and concerns with you. If you bring forward any hesitations or worries, your therapist can alleviate some of your worries or give you alternatives to work around pieces that have been difficult for you. Note: If you are dealing with crisis situations, it will be essential to have a safety plan in place with your therapist, especially as we are supporting you remotely.
2. Plug in to your Internet router if possible, or stay close to it.
If you are using a laptop, having an ethernet cable plugged in to the router will prevent the issues that WiFi has, simply because video takes up a lot of bandwidth. If you are still having trouble keeping connection (some of that awkwardness of not being able to hear each other can definitely interfere with therapy!), then simply opt for audio and turn off your video. Sometimes, using a phone can improve your connection, depending on your wireless carrier and your physical location of coverage.
3. Take 5 minutes before your appointment to put yourself in a comfortable space.
Think of how you would go into your appointment if you were going in person. We would go about our usual routine, have travel time, sit in the waiting room, and walk into the office and close the door. We may not realize it, but these things become a ritual - they are a pattern of things that usually happen at a certain time, during a certain day, and they prime our brains for connection with our therapist.
Taking the time to alter this ritual for beginning therapy, even though it will not take as much time as it would normally (and we may be even comfier in our sweatpants!), it is still important to give ourselves time to switch gears from our home life to our therapy session. If that means putting on some reflection music, or shutting the door and opening the windows, or simply sitting quietly for 5 minutes - it will make a huge difference.
4. Privacy is priority.
Use headphones, invest in a noise machine or play music/sound on a stereo, and make others aware of how important your privacy is. We are all functioning in very different circumstances, and with the way housing is in our areas, it can be difficult to maintain privacy. However, using some creativity to figure out how to get an hour of peace, we can use this act itself to empower ourselves in our mental health as well.
5. Write to your therapist via messaging in between sessions to check in.
One hour of session is not always enough, even under normal circumstances. In today's circumstances under COVID-19, it is a good idea to check in with your therapist if you're experiencing elevated emotions or even if you are maintaining a more regular emotional check to keep things centered more frequently. Of course, every therapist is different, and it is important to check in with your therapist about their level of comfort and rhythm/ability to respond to messages. In this way, we can keep in contact when you need the support and look for resources that may help you in the meantime.
Foresight is dedicated to supporting you at this crucial time in history. Schedule an appointment with us when you're ready, and we will be happy to find you a therapist as soon as possible.