Telehealth, otherwise known as video therapy sessions, are available in my practice. Telehealth can be incredibly convenient, and sometimes allows those who would not otherwise be able to access therapy to get the help they need. If you are a Washington State resident, I'm licensed to see you for telehealth from anywhere in the state. There are a few things for you to consider before deciding if telehealth is right for you.
Telehealth and privacy
Telehealth video sessions are by their very nature less private than in person sessions. Although I use only a video platform that meets the HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) guidelines for privacy, there's an inherent risk when using any technology that your information might not be perfectly safe. Each person must also consider the privacy of their own setting. Are you in a place where you can easily be overheard or interrupted? Will your safety be in any way at risk if you're overheard? If so, it can be difficult to relax into the therapy process and allow the thoughts and feelings that need to come up arise.
While most telehealth sessions experience minimal to no interruptions, there's always the possibility wifi connectivity isn't perfect on a given day. This can lead to the picture freezing up or vanishing, or the sound turning off. While this is often a mild annoyance, it can also occur in a vulnerable moment, which for some people is emotionally difficult. Sometimes we just have to wait out the glitch, which usually takes less than a minute, and at others we have to do some trouble shooting. If the connection is particularly bad, and the alternative would be to end the session, we can usually switch to a phone session. Here are some things you can do to minimize glitches:
1. Use a computer instead of a tablet or phone where possible as the connection is almost always better.
2. Sit as close to your wifi router as possible. If you have a hardwired ethernet connection, then connect to that as it will be the most stable signal.
3. Use the correct browser. For the system I'm using, Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari are recommended. If you have to use a phone or tablet, then use Google Chrome for Android devices and Safari for Apple devices.
Setting up for your online session
Do your best to set a place and time where you have a few minutes to mentally prepare for your session and process and calm your feelings after. With in person therapy, this usually occurs on the journey to and from the office, and it does improve the quality of the therapy when you take that time for yourself. In general, it's a good idea to jot down a few things that struck you after a session, and that's especially true if you have to go straight into some other activity as having to switch gears right away can make it hard to remember what occurred. It's also helpful to have a box of tissues handy just in case emotions run high. Even when you do your best to avoid interruptions, doing therapy from home or work can involve interruptions you weren't expecting. Please know that I'm understanding about this and won't be upset about these kinds of unforeseen issues. For some people, having a pet with them at home while doing telehealth helps them relax and open up. For others, the pet is a distraction and interrupts the flow of therapy so much that it's best the pet isn't present. Each person and pet has a different dynamic, so we just take it on a case by case basis.
Moving back and forth between telehealth to in person sessions
If you live locally and you would like to try in person therapy or switch to it altogether after meeting via telehealth, that is typically not a problem. I do have one day a week where I only work from home doing telehealth, and if you see me on that day, it may be that I can't immediately offer you an in person time, but will do my best to get you one as soon as possible. If the therapy isn't gelling for you, one reason could be that you simply work better in person than online. If you have questions about that, let's consider giving in person sessions a try first and see how that compares for you. Telehealth can also be an option on a one time basis if needed, for example during a snow day of when someone thinks they might be getting sick but don't feel too unwell to take part in therapy.
Covid-19 and telehealth
During the recent Covid-19 quarantine, I offered only telehealth sessions. When in person sessions are approved by the CDC and local health department, I see fully vaccinated people in person. I myself am fully vaccinated. I am seeing clients in person at present as the current recommendation is that fully vaccinated people can see other fully vaccinated people indoors without a mask in situations with only a few individuals. As many of my colleagues are doing a hybrid of telehealth and in person, the number of people in the building is still far below normal. On most days, you will only see me or perhaps 1-2 other people. The situation is still fluid due to virus variants, so the policy could change at any time and I would have to go back to telehealth only.