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I love online therapy!

Ellen's computer, camera and microphone near Sanctuary Christian Counseling in Shippensburg, PA

So, have you tried it yet?

Of course, I mean online therapy.

It’s all I do anymore, and honestly, I love it.

I’m serious about it, too. I am, as we say, a woman of a certain age. Prior to 2020 I was already considering my options for retirement and beyond. How long did I want to work? What would I do with my office at Sanctuary Christian Counseling (the brick-and-mortar one) when I left? Would I go part-time or just retire? What about all my clients? What about my supervisees? How would that look moving forward?

Enter Covid-19.

And chaos.

We had already been planning to offer online therapy beginning in May 2020 to our existing clients as well as those across the broader range of Pennsylvania. Before March, we had thought of this as a valuable addition to our mostly-ruralish practice, one that would enable some of our more far-flung clients to connect to our mental health services in new and easier ways.

It does all that, and more.

Pretty early on in the pandemic, I decided that online therapy – sometimes called telemental health or virtual therapy – was the wave of the future for me. Immediately all of us at Sanctuary started to work online, and I found it wonderful. It enables some conversations that are otherwise a little difficult to have (quite common with a sex therapist like myself) and it makes people very comfortable – naturally so, as they don’t have to leave the comfort of their homes to do it!

It’s all I intend to do, for the rest of my career. Oh, I do miss being able to see people’s entire posture and expression, and I’d love to be able to feel a little geographically closer sometimes, but overall, the experience is great for both clients and therapists. I’m hooked.

I thought I’d put together some hints and tips for participating in virtual therapy for those of you who might want to give it a try:

  • Don’t be afraid of it. It’s really quite easy and therapists are good trouble-shooters, even with tech issues. Mostly all you need is a device onto which you can load a video platform (at Sanctuary we have a HIPAA-compliant one, so it’s 100% safe, confidential and secure). Many of my clients use their phones, some tablets, and some computers. All work just fine.

  • Keep in mind the security on your end. That is to say, if there are people who can potentially come into your location, then it’s not confidential and you could be overheard. Outside in nice weather is good sometimes, and cars (not moving ones!) are often good. Obviously, rooms that can be private are great. What’s not so good is family rooms of a house, or public areas where others can walk in and interrupt a session. There are some rules about all of this, and your therapist will have you sign paperwork saying you understand the benefits and troubles of doing therapy this way, and they can help you troubleshoot this issue, too. In the main, it’s a great way to connect client and therapist in new and fresh ways.

  • The confidentiality of the location on the therapist’s side is part of the ethics of doing online therapy, so you can count on the therapist taking care of that part – in my case, I am locked into my bedroom, which is the furthest location in my home from the traffic areas, so it is safe and secure. I’m working on a home office upstairs, but that will take a few more months to prepare – it will also be safe and secure! The only “person” close to me is my 17-year old English setter, Griffin, who just cannot bear to be away from Mama for a moment. None of my clients mind him.

  • In general, sound and video are quite good, and, again, your therapist will have options if they are not. There are all kinds of possibilities, including the last resort of taking your session as a phone call, which is almost always possible. I have clients who have all kinds of difficult internet connections, and generally we can make it work well.

  • Please be clothed. Even if you are sitting on your bed – and it still surprises me how many people are! – please do be dressed. Your therapist is fully clothed – I always wear something I could wear for a face-to-face meeting – and you should be too. It’s fine to wear more casual clothes than you would going out, but please be covered.

  • Come to therapy with an open mind. While it’s true that online work has been thrust on us, it’s really very nice, and I have a lot of clients who prefer it! People who are skeptical just haven’t tried it yet. It IS different, but it is wonderful, too. I love the connection I feel because I can actually observe the client’s home, sometimes meet some of their family, and see them in a relaxed state.

  • Be ready to have a real therapy session. Many of us are online permanently now, so virtual therapy is a reality of life that won’t change. I love the idea that I can be somewhere other than Shippensburg, doing therapy with my clients. If at some point we can travel again, I intend to do therapy on the road (safely and securely, of course).

  • Make sure your therapist is legal to do therapy in your state. Currently, because of Covid-19, the states are pretty loosie-goosy about this, but we can’t count on that to continue. It’s safer to stay with someone who is licensed in your area so you won’t have to switch when the crisis is averted. Currently I’m licensed in Pennsylvania and working on permanent licensure in Maryland, New Jersey and Indiana. I am temporarily licensed in NJ and Indiana now. Most therapists are hoping that this pandemic convinces the states that they should allow more portability of our licenses, especially online – so that we can continue to provide therapy over state lines. But of course we don’t know what will happen with that at this time.

  • Consider your therapist’s training. At Sanctuary, we are all working on getting the BC-TMH training – board certification in telemental health. It’s a nation-wide designation that proves you’ve done the training to be ethical and helpful doing online therapy. It’s a good idea to look for some level of certification, just like you would licensure.

I have been steadily improving my ability to do online therapy in my home office (that’s the picture that’s with this blog) – I’ve added a wonderful Logitec camera to my MacBook Air laptop, and just recently splurged on a cool Blue Yeti microphone. It’s been a journey trying to find ways to make the online experience the best I possibly can for my clients, and I am learning and growing as I go.

Please join us at Sanctuary Christian Counseling as we continue to help grieving individuals, distressed kids and teens and couples in conflict find peace, solutions and connection. VIRTUALLY.

As the old Alka-Seltzer commercial says, “Try it. You’ll like it!”

Give us a call or send us an email today.

Sanctuary Christian Counseling

Virtually and limited Face-to-Face Therapy

9974 Molly Pitcher Highway, Suite 4

Shippensburg, PA 17257

Providing therapy in PA, NJ and IN


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