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  • Joseanne Spiteri

What is Online Therapy? What you need to know...

The financial and emotional consequences of Covid-19 has affected each of us, and individuals and couples are experiencing increased stress on many levels. I am committed to supporting your mental health and maintaining continuity of care and I will continue to be available to support you for weekly sessions in my office, if you so choose. My office is therefore open for in-person therapy session, with some restrictions and precautions in place.


However, I understand that these times understandably raise your level of vigilance and concern and am also offering online sessions when necessary as an alternative. I am dedicated to being available to both new and current clients. Because of the privilege and ease of video technology, I anticipate minimal disruption in your care, whether you are a brand new client or have been working with me for a while.


Luckily, technology allows us to easily switch to sessions via video or telephone. I am trained in video therapy skills, and my PHIPA compliant video platform can be easily accessed via a smartphone or laptop. If you (or a family member) are not feeling well for any reason, I ask that you err on the side of caution and remain home. I will not charge any late cancellation fees for illness-related cancellations.


So what's online therapy like? The Zurich University Study found a 90 percent satisfaction rate for individuals who use online counselling.  You may be feeling nervous about meeting your therapist online, especially if this is new to you or you have no experience with online platforms.   I want to assure you that your feelings of unease are completely normal.  Hopefully, I can alleviate some of that discomfort by providing you with some useful tips and suggestions.  

  1. You will receive notifications to complete the Consent Form and Intake Form online prior to your first appointment.  

  2. Just like being in a face to face therapy session, online therapy needs to remain confidential and private.  You’ll want to choose a room or space in your home that is private so that others cannot overhear you.  If you are in a small space, and this is difficult, you can try taking your session to your car or even in your bathroom or garage.  

  3. If you have children at home, let them know that you need some private time and provide them with an activity to keep them occupied.  If your partner is home, ask him/her to entertain the kids while you are in session.  If neither of these options is available to you, I offer evening sessions so that we can meet after you have put your children to bed for the night.  While it is preferred that the session is not interrupted, I understand that this is very much a possibility and will work around it.  

  4. If you are concerned about others overhearing your conversation, consider adding white noise just outside the door to your room.  This can include a white noise machine or a fan, or downloading a white noise application onto your smartphone.  Rooms with plants, area rugs and/or carpets will help absorb the sound and make for good room options. 

  5. Use noise cancelling headphones if possible to reduce outside noise and keep you focused on the therapy.  Headphones or plug-in ear buds are preferable to the wireless variety as it will save bandwidth.  You will also want to double check ahead of time that the ear phones are working well with the application/online platform you are using.  Further, the headphones must have a microphone feature.  

  6. It is important that you are able to look into the therapist’s eyes during therapy.  Avoid looking at the camera during the session. Instead, shrink your screen to two-thirds its normal size and move it up as close to the camera as possible.  This will provide you with the best probability of maintaining eye contact whilst online.

  7. You will be emailed instructions on which platform to download (I am currently using Zoom).  I encourage all clients to do a test log-in prior to the first online session to make sure everything is running ok.  Your microphone, headphones, speakers and video should be checked also prior to the first session.  

  8. I highly recommend that all other programs running on your device are closed.  It is important that you do not simply minimize these programs.  Exiting from all programs saves bandwidth which cuts freezing and any other tech glitches.  Don’t forget to close any cloud back up services.  Also, ask others in your house to avoid streaming videos or playing graphic online video games as this will impact the internet connection.  

  9. Couples therapy can be completed on the same device (you can sit side by side).  The convenience of online counselling makes it much easier to get two people together for you are able to cut through so many of the barriers that can keep you from attending regular sessions.  For example, many of the logistical issues including travelling and scheduling are minimized with online therapy.  Further, long distance relationships can be accommodated as all parties can log in from their separate locations.

  10. Keep your phone available and within reach during all online sessions.  The session can easily be shifted from online to telephone if the online option begins to malfunction.  This rarely happens, but if it does, there will always be a back-up available so we can continue with the session.

I hope these tips ease your discomfort about moving to online/telephone therapy. Your mental health is my number one priority.  With online/telephone therapy, and an online booking system, getting the support you need during these tough times has never been easier.