Preparing for Your First Telehealth Session

Telehealth or a telehealth session may also be known as online therapy, virtual therapy, or teletherapy when treating mental health disorders and substance use disorders. While telehealth has been around for several decades, it has recently taken significant leaps in all areas of health care.

Telehealth is defined as the use of any technological device to engage in therapeutic services. For example, video conferencing with your doctor to discuss medication-assisted treatment, telephone therapy sessions, couples therapy chats, individual therapies, and messages or assignments sent through emails and texts.

The best telehealth programs utilize multiple online systems.

How to Prepare for a First Telehealth Session

If you are preparing for your first telehealth session, you can take some essential steps to ensure it is successful. Because video chats are often chosen as the initial forms of contact, the following preparation steps will focus on that type of online communication.

1. Prepare Your Environment

Where you go in your home, office, or another place is important to have an excellent telehealth session. You want to avoid noisy environments where people are hanging out. When choosing a spot, think confidential, quiet, and secure.

If you are at home, choose a space only you can access during your session. Also, make sure you have a comfortable place to sit and a stable place to put your phone or computer. Good lighting, cleanliness, temperature, and charging capabilities should also be considered.

2. Prepare Your Technology

Technology can be tricky and, at the most inconvenient times, can stop working correctly. In the hour before your telehealth session, turn on your computer and follow these steps:

  • Ensure you have internet access and wifi is turned on
  • Check the battery level and plug it into the charger if it is low
  • Check the audio system on the computer to ensure you can hear your therapist and vice versa
  • Check the camera to ensure you can see your therapist, and they can see you
  • Turn off any programs or alarms that may go off during your session
  • Practice logging on the therapy platform your counselor uses

3. Prepare Your Mind

Your mind is the most critical part of therapy. If it is cluttered with random thoughts or distracted by stressors, you won’t be able to contribute fully to your online therapy session.

To prepare your mind for telehealth, start at least a half-hour before your appointment by implementing relaxation techniques, clearing your mind, calming racing thoughts, and focusing on your upcoming meeting.

To help clear your mind, write down the thoughts swirling in your head. If they are related to your therapy, share them with your counselor. Also, write down any questions to ask during your session. If you have specific events you want to discuss, write them down. This helps to prevent forgetting to bring up important issues.

Setting goals for your telehealth session can help you stay on track, and sharing them with your therapist is a great ice breaker. Goals for your first online therapy session may include getting a better understanding of how therapy works, learning a little about your therapist, being able to ask questions regarding payments, or discussing various behavioral therapies and a treatment plan.

4. Prepare Your Body

How you feel physically directly affects how you feel mentally. It can also affect your participation in a telehealth session. For example, if your first telehealth session is at noon, but you haven’t eaten any food for the day, your body may react. Hunger pains, stomach growls, headaches, nausea, feeling weak, blood pressure drops, and low blood sugars are symptoms of hunger.

Any of these symptoms can distract you during online therapy. It is hard to concentrate and process thoughts when you don’t feel well physically. It can also change your mood.

Before your telehealth session, eat a light snack if it has been a while since you ate last. Stay hydrated by drinking water. The better you feel, the better you can participate in therapy.

5. Prepare to Be Yourself

It is understandable to be nervous and guarded during your first telehealth session. However, the more you can be natural, open, and honest, the easier it will be to build rapport and make progress in healing. Allow yourself to trust your therapist. Don’t try to hold back emotions or thoughts. You are working with a licensed professional specializing in emotions and behaviors, making therapy the best time to share your thoughts and feelings.

Therapists are nonjudgmental, objective, and only interested in helping you feel better. Let them see the real you.

6. Prepare Your Expectations

Everyone has ideas and expectations about what will happen in their first online therapy session. Some expectations are met, while others are not. The key is to make sure your expectations are realistic. For example, you will not be completely healed after one session. It would be unrealistic to think much progress will be made after one session. Instead, expect improvement to occur over several weeks or months.

Also, don’t expect your therapist to have all the answers. You may have questions for which they do not know the answer but that they can find the answer and send it to you post-session.

Telehealth does not equate to telepathic. Therapists are not psychic. Don’t hesitate to share your expectations, desires, needs, etc. Be honest and open-minded enough to accept feedback.

7. Prepare a Backup Plan

Because technology errors can happen, it is a good idea to have a backup therapy plan with your therapist. There are several options for a backup plan, including a phone call, email, text, or a reschedule date set in advance.

Prepare for Your Second Telehealth Session

At the end of your first online therapy session, take time to reflect on how the meeting went. Journaling can be extremely helpful after therapy. Write down positive and negative thoughts about your experience. If you still have questions, write them down for your next session. If something was helpful, write it down.

When session two arrives, share your reflections, when appropriate, with your therapist. Together, you can work to improve the telehealth experience to benefit your recovery.

For more information about Mental Health Center or our services for telehealth sessions, contact us today.