4 Tips to Make the Most Out of Online Counseling

Therapy can be uncomfortable at first because you’re sharing personal difficulties and vulnerabilities. Taking that risk leads to growth and better mental health, but it isn’t always easy. Doing this online can be even more challenging, but the payoff makes it well worth it.

So how can you make the most out of online therapy? UNC Health psychiatrist Diana O. Perkins, MD, MPH, offers these four tips.

1. Decide the type of online therapy that works best for you.

There are different types of online therapy available. These include phone, video, text messages and email options for communicating with your therapist.

You can use therapy platforms such as Talkspace and BetterHelp that offer mental health therapy for a low cost. Or you can find an online therapist who has a private practice.

Some platforms use a combination of text messages, audio and video. Explore which combination works best for you.

2. Prepare ahead of time.

No matter which platform or medium you choose, be sure to prepare for your online therapy session ahead of time. Think about what you hope to gain from therapy.

“Write down your questions and concerns ahead of time, just as you would do if you were going to see a therapist,” Dr. Perkins says. “Think about what you’re trying to get out of the session, which can help your practitioner.”

3. Find the right time and place.

Try to find a space in your home where you can have some privacy and no distractions. Make sure you’re doing it in a space that feels safe for you.

Set aside time for your session. Therapy is not something to try to squeeze in while you’re cleaning the house, making dinner or running on the treadmill. Therapy can be hard work and requires your full attention to be effective and worth your time. It can also be a validating and comforting experience, and you want to give it your full attention to reap the benefits.

4. Be patient.

While online therapy could feel awkward at first, give it time. Yes, it’s going to be a different experience from in-person therapy, but with some time and effort, you can make online counseling work for you. Some people even find it a natural fit from the start, as you can get comfortable in your own home.

Remember to be consistent. Progress happens when you go to therapy regularly.

To get the most out of therapy, try doing it weekly. And it’s important to give the therapeutic relationship a chance, even if at first it doesn’t seem ideal. If after a few sessions you don’t think you’re a good fit with your therapist, try another one.

“Online therapy uses technology most people are familiar with, so with time, you can move to it easily,” Dr. Perkins says. “Be clear about your expectations with your provider so they can best meet your needs.”

If you think therapy might be right for you, talk to your doctor. If you don’t have one, find a doctor near you.