We’ve heard you loud and clear. For many of us, switching to video therapy means feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

While this is normal in new situations, or when trying new things, we wanted to reduce your stress by offering simple strategies to consider to make offering video sessions a breeze.

Ensure you are comfortable. Comfort is paramount in delivering a great therapy session, whether in-person or via video. Ideally, you are sitting at a desk with a laptop or desktop computer that has a webcam. If this is not an option, and you need to use a phone or tablet, remember that it’s imperative to keep them still. Prop them up on a desk or tripod, or get creative to keep them on a stable surface. While you may think you can keep your legs still for the entire session, it will be obvious to the client and result in poor and pixelated video quality.

Keep your background simple. Pay attention to when you watch the news and emulate the news anchor. They often wear plain solid coloured clothing and will have a simple background free of moving objects and distractions.

Lighting matters. Natural light is your best friend when it comes to video work. Open your window blinds or try to position yourself as close to the window as possible. If natural light is not an option, turn on ceiling lights and lamps to ensure that you are brightly lit in the frame. You want your clients to see your expressions clearly. 

Make eye contact. As a seasoned therapist, you are aware of the importance of eye contact. This does not go out the window when it comes to video counselling. The goal is to frame your face in the centre of the video screen and look directly into the camera when you want to make eye contact with your clients.

Limit distractions. Pets, moving objects like a ceiling fan, or your figurine collection in the background can all act as distractions to the session. Be mindful of what clients can see and how you want to address these distractions. Can a partner take the dog for a walk or can you give the dog a chewy treat to distract them. Turn off any fans or items that make unnecessary noise. If you can’t move your background, acknowledge it at the outset of the session so that the client can focus vs thinking about questions related to that distraction. 

Headphones are helpful. If you have a family, roommates or pets outside of the quiet space you are in, it can be helpful to use headphones to limit distractions and respect client privacy. Typically we recommend using headphones for all remote sessions.

Quality of connection matters. Ask your family to limit streaming of Netflix or Youtube videos unless you are sure that your internet package includes a  high bandwidth. Extra bonus: Use an ethernet cable plugged directly into your computer for better connectivity.

Shut off Notifications. Turn off or mute your cell phone notifications and desktop notifications. Close programs on your computer to limit distractions. Clients will notice if you are checking your phone or watching your notifications pop up. Our goal is to remain professional.

Ensure you know how to use the online software. Ask someone to practice with you ahead of time and give you feedback on your set up, background, lighting, etc. The more practice we have the more pared we will be. 

Remember we are all human. For many of us, this will be a fast change to a new format and we may feel uneasy. Remember that our clients likely feel similarly. It’s okay to share the journey together and acknowledge the struggle as part of your session. We will all be better for it in the end.

Practicing these strategies will be helpful and in no time you will become a pro at delivering remote sessions. Good luck and let me know how it goes!