It’s been almost two months since all counseling here in New York State has been conducted via tele-therapy , i.e. over either a telephone or a video platform.

At first, speaking with your counselor in this way may seem artificial or odd, but my experience and the experience of many others has been that,  with a little practice, it becomes quite natural and normal.

While remote counseling is not new,, ( I first provided Skype style sessions for military families with deployed members almost twenty years ago),  many folks don’t know much about it.

So , if you have been considering getting some counseling but have been reluctant due to this different format, here are some frequently asked questions and answers about tele-therapy to help you understand it and feel more comfortable with it.

Q:  Does teletherapy work ?

A. Some folks have been asking if remote counseling over the internet was as  good as face to face counseling or if it really works. While these questions are understandable , it is important to understand that  repeated research has shown that not only is tele-therapy as effective as face-to-face counseling but, that for some people, it is actually a more effective format in which to provide psychotherapy.

Q: What is the best place in the house to do tele-therapy ?  

A. While there is no one best place, unless your house has a television studio, several conditions need to be considered to provide an optimum experience.  1) Lighting – sit in a place where there is plenty of light on your face. Be careful not to sit with a window or bright light behind you or you will be “backlit” and the camera will under-expose  your face and you will appear in shadow.  2) Background – Be aware of where you sit and what the camera will see behind you.  Keep it simple and non-distracting.  Book shelves., a plain wall or simple decorations work well and  are not too “busy”. 3) Privacy  –  Counseling is a personal thing and you need to feel that no one but your therapist can hear what you are saying. If you aren’t secure that you have privacy, you are less likely to speak as openly as you need to for therapy to be effective or helpful.

Q: What to wear  ?

A. While you don’t have to dress-up, remember that you are speaking to your therapist and he or she can see you . Casual is fine  but use good judgment. Just because you are in your house doesn’t mean that it is okay  to wear  that ratty T shirt or grungy jeans. Remember, the way you look or present yourself says a lot about how you feel and your counselor will notice, just as if you were in his/her office.

Q. Where do I look and how do I sit during the session in front the camera  ?

A. Trying a few different camera heights and angles is a good idea to find the one which allows you to comfortably look at the center of the screen and camera  at the same time. Also, during the session , you don’t always have to look at the camera .  If you were in your counselor’s office, you wouldn’t always look at him/her  and the same applies for tele-therapy.  Although you may be a little anxious or self-conscious at first , you will find  that , as you get “into it” the camera “disappears”  and you will speak just like you were sitting in the room together.  Likewise, you move in the session and shift positions as you would in a regular session.  Feel comfortable and don’t feel like you have to sit at “attention”.

These are some of the most commonly asked questions about tele-therapy but if you have other questions, please feel free to contact me. (1 315 380 1005)

Another important change to be aware of is that, due to the governor’s state-of-emergency declaration, most insurance has suspended all co-pays., co-shares and deductibles. That measure means that your medical insurance covers the full cost of treatment.

Over all, it is important to understand that despite the limitations that the COVID-19 virus has imposed on our daily living and world, counseling is a resource which continues to be available to help you better cope through this difficult time.

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC          5 14 2020