Monday, February 1, 2021

What to expect when you start online therapy

4 min read
Written by

Feel Therapeutics

Partly thanks to COVID-19, 2020 proved to be a significant turning point for telehealth. Backing up this need for mental health care is the National Center for Health Statistics’ Pulse Survey that found, on average, 41.95% of the US population experienced symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder between October 28, 2020, and December 21, 2020.

What is online therapy?

Online therapy is also known as teletherapy and essentially is similar to face-to-face therapy. You work with your therapist, counselor, or coach to find ways to overcome the challenges you may be facing in your life.

The main difference is that instead of having to take time out of your day to go to a clinic, you access your sessions ‘online’, either through messaging, phone, or video.

Why choose online therapy

Currently, demand for mental health support already outstrips supply as a shortage of therapists means individuals are experiencing up to 4 months of delay to receive treatment. One of the biggest benefits of online therapy is that it significantly reduces the waiting time to access support. During the COVID-19 pandemic it can also be considered as a safe option as you don’t have to be in the same room with another person or commute.

Being online makes accessing therapy more convenient and affordable. Thanks to the advancements in technology, it is possible to have 24/7 access to support that enables real-time interventions as and when they are needed. The use of technology also eliminates the struggle of trying to fit spaced-out, stand-alone, face-to-face sessions into busy schedules.

How to prepare for your first online session

Starting anything new is always daunting, even more so if you’re experiencing mental health challenges. The good news is, the biggest hurdle has been overcome because you’ve already acknowledged you need some help and have reached out.

As you prepare for your first session, the most important thing to remember is to be open to discussing your issues and receiving advice. Therapy is not a one session fix. It will take time for you to learn to reconnect with your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and develop positive emotional habits that will improve your mental wellbeing.

Ideally, you should try and find or set up a space that you feel safe and comfortable in and is as private as possible. This will help you engage better with the therapy process and feel more relaxed when discussing personal matters.

Yes, the beauty of online therapy is that you can access it from anywhere, but during a session, you need as few distractions as possible.

What to expect at your first session

In many cases, your first session with a therapist, online or not, is an evaluation session. It’s a bit like a first date, only much less awkward, as you and your therapist get to know each other.

You can expect your therapist to ask you questions such as; what made you seek help, what issues are you facing, etc. But remember, in therapy, there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer.

Setting goals

An important aspect of your first session is establishing your goals. What is it that you want to get out of therapy?

Is it to feel less stress, less anxious, happier? Maybe you want to learn coping techniques?

Whatever it is, setting goals will always be driven by you.

Setting expectations

Just as you need to set your goals, you need to be realistic about your expectations. There will be no instant gratification. Changes will be gradual, but eventually, you will see a difference.

Your therapist may also set expectations. These may include attending each session on time, staying focused on your goals, and doing any exercises they may set you.

Take the opportunity to ask questions

No matter how trivial they may seem, if there’s something you’re not sure about, ask. The chances are, your therapist will probably have been asked the same question a hundred times.

Ask the questions you need to clarify in your mind the therapy method, process, how it works, how long it will be before you see any noticeable differences, etc.

Embrace the online aspect

Talking to a therapist in the safety of your own surroundings can help you open up more than if you were in a clinical setting.

This helps you integrate your therapy into your everyday life. In turn, this can make it more engaging, which leads to better outcomes.

Both our Feel and Feel Relief Programs combine online therapy sessions, resources, and a mobile app for emotion journaling, and have shown to increase active engagement and positive outcomes. The programs were created as part of our efforts to develop digital biomarkers and therapeutics to bring objective, passive, and continuous measurement and data to reinvent the way we diagnose, manage, and care for mental health.

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