Starting therapy can feel a little daunting under the best circumstances.
Uncertainty about what to expect. Nervousness about having to sit with painful emotions. Worry about being judged for how you feel and think. These are some reasons that people are hesitant about moving forward.
In our current period of turmoil, the idea of further engagement with hard emotions may feel overwhelming. At the same time, the demand for mental health services illustrates their benefits in helping people cope with feelings of loss, sadness, worry, and disconnection.
The gift of virtual platforms is that they make therapy possible during the need to quarantine. Nom they’re not what we’re used to. At the same time, as my clients and I negotiate this transition together we’re finding that the adjustment can be easier than expected. Further, we’re also discovering some surprising upsides to this alternative arrangement.
Routine, online therapy can be grounding amidst the uncertainty.
As society responds to the evolving nature of the epidemic, there are constant changes in our work and personal lives. Unpredictability can fuel anxiety as it feels as though we have no control. To manage these feelings, focusing on what we can control – daily exercise, regular meals, consistent sleeping patterns – can be helpful. Regularly scheduled therapy can serve as a valuable anchor during these turbulent times. I encourage my clients to keep the same appointment time each week to reinforce a sense of constancy.
Therapy can feel easier from a distance.
Some of my clients actually feel more comfortable doing online therapy, as the distance feels like a protective barrier. In addition, being in familiar surroundings, surrounded by pets, covered by a blanket or around objects that hold a special value, such as pictures, artwork, and plants, can help them settle more easily into a therapy session. This further helps with self-awareness of how you create a sense of safety for yourself.
It may feel awkward at first and that’s okay.
If you’ve ever done, or expected you’d do, therapy in person, a virtual platform can feel strange at first. Rest assured, your therapist may be feeling similarly. This should be discussed during your session. Let your therapist help you consider how to make online therapy sessions more supportive of your needs. In addition, moments of awkwardness bring important opportunities to practice how to cope with feeling uncomfortable, a skill that translates into many areas of life.
Online therapy can teach you how to work with disruption to a plan.
While online therapy really is a marvel of modern technology, it’s not without its glitches. You may be in the middle of sharing something very personal when your therapist’s screen freezes. No two ways about it – this can be really frustrating. It also presents an opportunity to learn how to plan for and work with events that are unexpected and out of your control. Speak with your therapist about what you’ll do should your session end abruptly. Will you text, call or try the link again? When it happens, notice how you feel and bring that into the session as it can lead to some important emotional work.
The move to teletherapy has been necessary as the virus exerts its influence on all facets of our lives. It also creates an opportunity to think more broadly about what this time can teach us about the practice of therapy.
The decision to start therapy is a big step and signals your desire to live life differently. If you’d like to set up a virtual therapy appointment or discuss how therapy can benefit you, please reach out to us.
Regina Tosca, LICSW is a therapist at the Viva Center in Washington, DC. She works with people experiencing grief and loss, including from their work in animal welfare. Other blogs by Regina include “Grieving the Loss of a Pet” and “The Power of Mind-Body Approaches in Trauma Recovery.“