• Now that the UK is in lockdown, clients and therapists are switching to working online

  • Therapist Julia Bueno explains how to prepare for an online therapy session

  • Being in isolation doesn't mean you can't start your therapy journey if you need someone to talk to – find your therapist here

People often ask me about how best to choose the ‘right’ therapist and I always ask them to think about logistics, such as budget and where they are located (travelling an hour each way to meet a therapist may be more stress than it’s worth). I also suggest that they listen to their sense of how it feels when they are in the consulting room, in other words, to rely on their ‘hunch’ that it feels right or not – as this can often be reliable.

But these considerations can’t apply in the same way for now, as we all adapt quickly to having to choose, and then work with, a therapist online (or on the phone). I have worked in this way for over five years now, both as a therapist and client  – so I draw on tips from both sides of the screen.

Choosing an online therapist

Given that choosing a therapist is no longer bound by geography, you may find yourself overwhelmed with choice, but:

  • You may want to consider a therapist who does practice near you. We won’t be confined at home forever, and if the therapy continues, you may well switch to meeting in person again.
  • As ever, ensure that your therapist is professionally qualified (and if chosen via welldoing.org this will be the case)
  • As you would IRL (‘in real life’), don’t feel pressured to select ‘the one’ immediately. Take your time to consider a few, and ask for a chat before you commit to further work. Some therapists offer free initial consultations.
  • Ask about experience of online work – some therapists like myself have been working online for years now, others may be very new. Some therapists have particular training in online work. You may prefer to choose someone with experience.
  • The UKCP and BACP prefer ways of talking online that are encrypted and therefore preserve confidentiality – such as Zoom and Vsee.

Preparation for online therapy sessions

  • Make sure your connection is as good as possible. If it’s possible to work ‘off wifi’ – i.e.: with a cable connected to your modem, use that.
  • Discuss back-up options with your therapist at the start of the session: if one means of meeting fails, discuss what you will try next e.g.: If Zoom fails, trying Vsee or a phone call. Or agree to meet at another set time.
  • Discuss cancellation/payment of fees due to Covid-19 illness (or indeed other illness) for either you or your therapist.
  • If your therapist is ill, he or she may suggest meeting a colleague?
  • Let others in your home know that you are talking privately for 50 minutes and that you need no interruptions.
  • Do let your therapist know if you can’t see or hear them. Bear in mind that we can’t look into each other’s eyes though. When your therapist is talking, you may want them to look at you – which means asking them to look into the camera if they forget.
  • If you are likely to be distracted by noise around you, use headphones.
  • Remove other distractions, such as notifications that alert your device (messaging or otherwise) or unfinished work documents that are open and obvious, or even piles of washing needing to be sorted beside you. Ensure you can prioritise having a focussed conversation that is for you.
  • Make sure you are comfortable - sessions are most usually 50 minutes long and your back will need proper support. Also make sure to be warm or cool enough – you don’t want to waste your precious time hunting down a jumper or turning the heating up.
  • In my consulting room, I always have water and tissues to hand – you may need one or other or both, but don’t combine eating a meal with a therapy session. Therapy works best for you if you can concentrate on your head and heart.
  • There may be some advantages of meeting your therapist from your home to consider – maybe you can show your therapist important photographs or possessions, or works of art that mean something to you. There may even be words that are too difficult to say out loud but can be written down and shown, or messaged through.

Julia Bueno is a verified welldoing.org therapist in N16 – she also offers online therapy

Further reading

Self-care tips from an introvert: how to make the most of self-isolation

Online therapy: some considerations for beginners

Grounding exercise to regulate anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic

The psychological impact of coronavirus

Therapist advice if coronavirus has triggered health anxiety and OCD