Online Therapy: Everything You Need to Know Before Getting Started

You’ve decided to take the plunge and try online therapy from home. It’s a courageous decision and beneficial for your well-being so congratulate yourself for braving to ask for help.

But how do you prepare for this new and sometimes daunting experience? What are the pitfalls to avoid and the tips to know? How can you know your therapist is a good match and actually helping you? Don’t panic, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your therapy experience.

How do I prepare for my first therapy session?

To fully take advantage of your session, it is important to create a bubble that isolates you from outside distractions and promotes both your concentration and relaxation. Here are some tips to achieve this:

  • Tell the people who live with you that you are going to have a therapy session and ask them to respect your privacy and peace of mind. If possible, choose a time when they are away or busy elsewhere.
  • Turn off or mute any devices that might disturb you during the session (phone, television, notifications on the computer, etc.). Close windows or curtains if outside noise or light is bothersome.
  • Using headphones can improve the sound quality and maintain the privacy of the online therapy session.
  • Before starting the session, take a few minutes to relax and focus on your emotions. You can do some breathing exercises, meditation or stretching.
  • Avoid stimulants like coffee, alcohol or drugs before the session. They can impair your judgment and your ability to express your feelings.

How does my first online therapy session go?

An online therapy session usually lasts between 50 minutes and an hour. It generally proceeds as follows:

  • You will receive a link by email that allows you to access the secure platform (Google Meet, Zoom, or another platform) where the session will take place.
  • You join your therapist in their virtual waiting room. Arrive 5 minutes early and do sound, microphone, and camera tests.
  • Lighting: Use bright, soft light and try to evenly illuminate your face.
  • Avoid strong light sources and backlights, which can cast shadows on your face and make it difficult to read your expressions. The right lighting helps your therapist understand how you are feeling and better support you in your therapy.
  • Ideally, you should be seated at a comfortable distance from the camera, so that your head and shoulders are clearly visible. Avoid positioning yourself too far or too close to the camera, which can make it difficult to read your facial expressions.
  • You start the session by discussing the practical arrangements (payment, schedule, confidentiality, etc.) if necessary.
  • You discuss with your therapist on the subjects that concern you or that interest you. They can ask you questions to better understand your situation and your needs. They can also suggest exercises, techniques, ideas, or questions for you to ponder to help you progress.
  • You can end the session by taking stock of what you discussed and what you felt. You can also schedule a future appointment if you wish to continue the therapy. Doing this step in session will remove the mental labor of back and forth e-mails and having to remember to book your next session during your busy schedule.

What can I talk about during my sessions?

  • Think about your goals and expectations for therapy. What do you want to change or improve in your life? What do you hope to achieve as a result or as a benefit?
  • Make a list of topics or issues you want to discuss with your therapist. You can prioritize them. You can also write down any questions you have about the therapy or the therapist.
  • If you want, you can prepare a brief history of your personal, family and professional situation. You can mention the significant events, the difficulties encountered, the resources you have, etc. At the same time, be aware that Divan Bleu therapy is more focused on the here and now, so you are under no obligation to talk about the past!
  • Be ready to talk about your emotions and your feelings. Try to identify how you feel about situations that concern you or interest you. Express yourself with sincerity and without fear of judgment, we are here to support you!

These ideas can help you prepare your content to go to therapy. However, remember that therapy is a flexible and personalized process. You don’t have to say everything from the first session or follow a rigid plan. Your therapist will adapt to your pace and your needs.

How to be an active participant and get the most out of online therapy?

Therapy is a dynamic process that requires dedication and personal work. To move forward in your approach and achieve your goals, here are some tips:

  • Be regular and punctual in your sessions. Stick to the schedules you have agreed with your therapist and don’t miss appointments without a valid reason. Regularly rescheduling or canceling could be a sign of a lack of structure in your own life and that has an impact on you and your relationships. Consider making the effort to show up and maybe discuss the difficulties that were involved with making that happen.
  • Be active and participative during the sessions. Express yourself freely and sincerely about what you are going through, what you are thinking and what you are feeling, including your own feelings about the therapist themselves, to the therapist.
  • Link sessions. Between two appointments, try to put into practice what you have learned or discovered during the session. For example, if your therapist has invited you to reflect on an aspect of your life, write down your ideas or observations in a journal.
  • Evaluate your progress. From time to time, check in with your therapist on the evolution of your situation and your emotions. Notice the positive changes you’ve made or the challenges you’ve overcome. Celebrate your successes and recognize your efforts.

What to do after the session is over?

After the online therapy session, it is important to take care of yourself and respect your pace. Here are some tips to end your session on a good note:

  • Thank your therapist for listening and helping. Express to him what you appreciated or what you found difficult during the session. Do not hesitate to ask him for feedback or suggestions for the future.
  • Take the time to digest what you experienced or learned during the session. Do not rush to resume your usual activities. Give yourself a moment of pause to reflect, write or draw what you feel.
  • Treat yourself to something that makes you feel good. For example, drink herbal tea, eat fruit, watch a funny movie, take a nap, etc.
  • Be kind to yourself. Do not judge or criticize yourself for what you said or did during the session. Accept your emotions without repressing or amplifying them. Congratulate yourself for taking this step.
Relaxed woman with hands behind her head, illustrating the importance of taking a moment for yourself

How do I know if my online therapy is working?

Online therapy is a process that can take time and is far from being linear. There is no universal rule to measure its effectiveness or its duration. However, there are a few indicators that can help you know if your online therapy is working or not. Here are some examples :

  • You feel more comfortable and confident with your therapist. You have established a relationship of trust and mutual respect. You can talk to them about any topic freely and without fear.
  • You notice positive changes in your life. You are more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. You have developed strategies to deal with difficulties or stressors. You have achieved some of your goals or are on your way to achieving them.
  • You experience fewer symptoms or pain. You sleep better, you eat better, you take care of yourself.
  • Therapy can help you better understand your share of responsibility for the conflicts and difficulties in your life, even if these situations are not entirely your fault. By examining your own behavior, attitudes, and thought patterns, you can begin to identify your authentic actions versus your defensive reactions or thoughts. This kind of separation lets you know when to be more kind with yourself in moments of defensive pain and see how you may be hurting others too.
  • You begin to improve your relationships with others. You communicate better with those around you. You express your needs and your limits. You resolve conflicts constructively. You feel closer and more supported.
  • Therapy can lead to changes in your relationships, especially when setting boundaries for the first time. Although it may be difficult, your therapist can help you identify healthy boundaries and walk you through the process. Remember that you deserve healthy and respectful relationships. Sometimes setting boundaries can mean loss in the short term.
  • It is important to keep in mind that therapy does not work miracles, but it can be an effective step towards well-being. It’s a process that takes time, patience and commitment, but can help improve your quality of life in the long run.

If you see these or other signs that your online therapy is working, congratulate yourself on your journey and keep it that way. If, on the contrary, you do not see any improvement or if you are dissatisfied with your therapy, do not hesitate to talk about it with your therapist or to seek another option that suits you better.

Profil photo of Bianca Saia
article written by:
Bianca Saia
Founder, Relationship Therapist
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