• Vanessa DaCosta

How to make the most of video counselling during Covid-19

During this time when we have been asked to engage in social distancing, we have had to learn new and creative ways to interact with others. Thankfully, technology has allowed us to creatively interact with others and engage in activities of daily living. Whether we have participated in virtual workout classes or watched movies with our friends via Netflix Party we have come to rely upon on our devices to get us through these challenging times. Why should that be any different for how we access and utilize supports? Even before social distancing and self-isolation, many therapists have offered video counselling as it can be a flexible alternative for individuals with busy schedules, who live remotely or who are differently-abled. Most if not all therapists are now offering video or phone counselling to their clients to provide continued services for individuals who need support or those who want to continue in their therapeutic journey's. Video counselling can be just as beneficial and effective as in-person counselling and according to researchers video sessions have similar satisfaction and clinical outcomes compared to in-person sessions (Richardson et al. 2009). Video counselling also allows for more accessibility and convenience allowing individuals to attend appointments from the amenity of their homes. Switching to or starting video counselling can certainly lead to mixed emotions for individuals and everyone will have different preferences and comfort with it. Regardless of how we feel about it, certain things in our control can assist in making it a more comfortable and pleasurable experience. 1. Set a Time and Place for your Appointments Book your sessions during a time that makes the most sense to you and your lifestyle. Try to pick a time when there are fewer distractions and when you will be able to fully concentrate and engage in the session. For example, scheduling an appointment during dinner when you live with multiple people may not be helpful. Have your session in a part of your home that allows you to have privacy and quiet so that you feel comfortable speaking with your therapist openly and honestly without worrying who may be listening. If you don't have space or are not sure if you can guarantee privacy ask your roommate or partner to listen to music (with headphones) or go for a walk during your session. Using headphone during your session also ensures no one can hear the full conversation. 2. Limit Distractions Use this time for you! Think of this appointment as another way to engage in self-care and limit the number of interferences going on around you. Ensure other devices are off or muted, turn off notifications and remove any distractions from your environment! 3. Check Battery Life & Connections Ensure the device you are using has plenty of battery life or that it is plugged in to avoid your device turn off during the session. Check that your internet connection is working properly and avoid having sessions in areas with poor signals. It is always a good idea to test out the video platform before your session so that you can troubleshoot any issues you may have. 4. Be Flexible Being flexible about the process and recognizing that things may not go accordingly can ease any anxiety you may be experiencing. Video counselling is not perfect and you may experience difficulties during your session including connection issues for example. Discussing what could go wrong during the session with your therapist ahead of time can lead to the development of a contingency plan including using an alternative method or rescheduling the appointment. 5. Be Willing to Provide Feedback If you are willing to provide your therapist with feedback about what is or isn't working or be open about your feelings it can create an opportunity for the two of you to work through these challenges and grow. It can also lead to building new skills and tools and feeling more confident in your ability to assert yourself. Your therapist wants to help you and by providing them with any feedback allows them to be aware of your needs and to collaboratively work with you to meet those needs. Whether you are thinking about it, trying it for the first time or returning to it it's important that your therapist speaks to you about the benefits and risks of engaging in video counselling and that you understand the process. Your therapist also has a responsibility to ensure that your sessions are confidential and secure. Your mental health and well-being are important especially now in this difficult time of uncertainty and isolation and video counselling can certainly be one way to get support! This is a learning process for all of us so take your time and ask questions to ensure you get the most of your experience!

References Richardson, Lisa K., B. Christopher Frueh, Anouk L. Grubaugh, Leonard Egede, and Jon D. Elhai. “Current Directions in Videoconferencing Tele-Mental Health Research.” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 16, no. 3 (2009): 323–338.

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