Online OR In-Person Counseling
Due to COVID-19, in March of 2020, I was asked required to stop seeing clients in my office and start providing telehealth. Like so many of us, I was disoriented, confused, and worried. Even though I have worked for years using online platforms (mainly during consultations and supervisions), I had never thought that I would be forced to provide online counseling to all of my existing and new clients.
This unprecedented situation made me stretch, grow, and become more flexible. And, thanks to technology, it did open the door for me to reach and serve people I normally wouldn’t be able to help due to distance, scheduling difficulties and other factors that would make it challenging for someone to come in for a face-to-face counseling session. I embraced the concept of online counseling so much so that I decided to stay with online counseling as my primary model, but I also offer add a hybrid choice!
Here are my reasons behind online counseling:
· What telehealth taught me is that it is way more convenient than in person sessions. Clients don’t have to worry about leaving their homes or work offices at a specific time to arrive to my office on time. They don’t have to worry about hitting an unexpected traffic jam and missing half of their session because of it. They save a lot of time (and gas) not needing to drive!
· Unlike face-to-face sessions, telehealth is more flexible and accessible! If you have a session scheduled with me and your child gets sick or your babysitter cancels on you, you don’t have to miss your appointment. Similarly, if desired, we can still have a session when you are away on your vacation or visiting your family out of state. Afterall, who doesn’t need just a little extra support when they are visiting their families?
· Telehealth is comfortable—well, if you allow it to be. If you have a favorite room or a chair in your home, make it your “counseling space.” Get your favorite tea, blanket, pillow, aroma, and invite your dog or a cat to accompany you. It makes all the difference to get in a habit of creating that very space for yourself where you talk things out and allow yourself to feel.
After over a year of online work, I can now safely say that it is truly possible to have a successful therapy session online. My goal, as always, is to build the level of emotional engagement with you that will reach you through the screen, touch you in deep ways, and move your heart so that you can learn about yourself and grow.
At the same time, there are also a few things that you can do on your end to ensure that your online counseling session is as “disruption free” as possible:
· First, make sure that you pick a location for your online session that is as private as possible. If you don’t have a private space, get creative. For example, did you know that you can go to your nearest library and book a private study room and use their fast internet? How cool is that?
· Second, please make sure that you have a more than decent phone reception or Wi-Fi connection. This piece is important! If possible, test your connection beforehand.
· Third, get comfortable and don’t forget to bring your charger. I don’t recommend that you hold your phone in your hand for the entire session. Believe me, you will get tired! In addition, if you are used to working from home, ask yourself if having your counseling session in the same spot where you have all of your other Zoom meetings is truly the most comfortable place for you. If yes, great! If no, find a comfortable couch, chair, or get on the floor. Finally, what if you made it extra special for yourself? Grab a few pillows and a blanket for yourself, make your favorite tea, and maybe even invite your pet.
Finally, please know that I conduct all of my online counseling sessions using Zoom. I will send you a NEW email with a Zoom link EACH TIME we meet. Please check your inbox right before our scheduled time – 2min before the start of our session. If you cannot locate your email to join the Zoom meeting, please check your spam folder.
I encourage you to give online sessions a try—even if you tried online counseling before and you didn’t like it. Why? Because even if you had an unpleasant online counseling experience, there are three things that are NOW different:
1) Depending on why that first online session was not successful for you, you can now learn from that experience and either organize a better Wi-Fi connection or get more creative about having a private space during your session. Do you remember the idea of booking a study room at your nearest library? Try it! It works beautifully.
2) You will also be meeting with a new therapist—me! My style of work is likely different than your regular type of a therapist who tells you to change your attitude, be positive, or use more coping skills. I describe myself as an experiential therapist. That means that I will try to create a new experience right there and then while in the session with you. From there, we will brainstorm how you can take that new experience and use it outside of the session.
3) Telehealth works—but ONLY IF we can see it as a wonderful tool that helps with connection versus promotes disconnection.
You might ask…but what about the hybrid option?
I can absolutely meet with you face-to-face in an office. My new office address is 80 Garden Center, Broomfield, CO 80020. I am renting space there hourly. If you decide that you would like to see me in person, please let me know one or two weeks in advance, and I will book a therapy office for us. Please know that there might be circumstances where meeting in person might not be possible even if you request it. Therefore, please make sure that—if you choose to work with me—you are also comfortable with the online counseling option.
As far as COVID-19 is concerned, at this time, I can only see clients who have been fully vaccinated AND who:
1. Present at the time of the session with absolutely no symptoms.
2. Have no reason to believe that they have been around someone who could have been sick or who suspected being sick.
3. Are willing to show a proof of their vaccination.
Also, please know that if Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment changes its policies (and that has been happening a lot in the last year and a half!), and they advise even vaccinated people to wear masks during the sessions, I will temporarily stop providing face to face sessions. Counseling just does not work the same when I cannot see your face and you cannot see mine!