How To Get the Most Out Of Online Therapy - Find Your Therapist Today
Updated March 17, 2020
Reviewer Nicole Gaines, LPC
Millions of people turn to therapy online to help them through tough times in life. Whether that be art therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, or any of the other varieties of therapy, it can be an invaluable tool when life gets hard.
An increasing number of people are seeing a counselor with online therapy. Online therapy has numerous advantages over in-person therapy, including lower cost and the convenience of completing your therapy from your own home. However, just because someone chooses to undergo therapy does not automatically mean that therapy online will work for them. If you decide to seek help via online therapy, here are some ways to ensure that you get the most out of your experience.
Online Therapy Plan
It is important that you go into a therapy session with and online therapist with a clear idea of what you would like to accomplish. If you keep a journal, try to write about any challenges you are facing that you would like to discuss with your online therapist.
If you do not have a journal, a simple list will do the trick. In the week leading up to your first therapy appointment, anytime something makes you feel a negative emotion, write it down. One of the advantages of online therapy over traditional therapy is that you can have these materials right in front of you as you work with the counselor. Going into the session with a clear idea of the things you want to work on means you and your therapist can focus on the important things, and not waste any time simply trying to get to decide which areas of your life you want to discuss.
Set Goals with Your Therapist
This is an elaboration of the first point. Beyond simply planning what you want to discuss with your counselor, think about how you want to feel following a therapy session and moving forward in the future. Knowing what you want to accomplish, and communicating these things with your therapist, will make your sessions much more worthwhile for all parties involved. Having an idea of your goals for therapy online ensures that the time you spend chatting with your online therapist will not be wasted. Plus, doing so before starting counseling can help you find the therapist that is the right fit for you.
Here are some tips in setting goals with your online therapist:
- Be realistic with your therapist
- Get specific with what you are looking to accomplish with your online therapist
- Make sure your goals are about you
- Create an action plan to reach your goals with your online therapist
- Outline the steps needed to achieve these goals, be as specific as you need
- Making sure you are setting new goals with your therapist after completing each set goal
Therapy Online: Don't Settle With Your Therapist
Another advantage of online therapy is the amount of choice you have as a patient. When working with a traditional in-person counselor, your choice is restricted by who is practicing in your area, who takes your insurance, and other factors. But when you are working with a counselor online, your amount of choice is multiplied.
The best online therapy services will have a wide variety of therapists who you can choose to work with, with a variety of specialties, backgrounds, and genders. Some services, like Regain, match you with a licensed counselor based on your wants and needs for therapy. Still, if you feel the match is not a good fit, you always have the freedom to switch to a different counselor who you feel is better suited for you. When it comes to finding the right counselor, it is okay to be picky. Do not settle for a counselor that you feel cannot help you accomplish your goals.
Online Therapy: Schedule Sessions Online
Some online therapy services will have you schedule a 30 minute or hour-long session with your therapist as you would for an in-person session. Others are 24-hour services, in which you have an ongoing dialogue with your therapist and can update them on how you are feeling at any time of the day. Often, online therapy will be a mix of both formats. You will schedule certain times to have a long talk with your counselor but can also contact them at any time if something comes up.
Regardless of which form of online therapy you choose, it is important to prioritize time to work with your online therapist. Once you decide to work with an online counselor, figure out when in your day or week you can carve out some time to dedicate to your online therapy. You may decide a certain day of the week is when you want to do one, long update, or you may want to write a shorter message to your therapist every evening.
Whatever you choose, make the time you chat with your therapist your "me" time. If you live with other people, ask them not to bother you while you plan to chat with your counselor. This way, you can fully focus on your conversation, and make sure you can communicate everything that is on your mind with online therapy.
Of course, if you choose a 24-hour therapy service, you can always send a quick message to your online therapist if there is something you feel you need to tell them immediately. But, it is also important to set aside some scheduled time to talk to them to get the most out of your therapy experience.
Be Realistic with Your Therapist and Constraints
When setting goals or scheduling time for your online therapy, be realistic about any time constraints you may be facing. While online therapy is far less time consuming than traditional, in-person therapy, it is still important to commit yourself that you will dedicate the necessary time and energy towards your therapeutic efforts.
Most people are very busy, and that is okay. If you only have thirty extra minutes in your week that you can devote to therapy, that is perfectly fine, but you need to keep that in mind when setting goals for yourself and your therapy. If you have major goals you want to accomplish, be realistic and realize that it may take a long time to get there if you are only doing a little bit of work a week. Remember that little things eventually add up to big things, and something is always better than nothing. But, be realistic about your time, and do not get discouraged if you feel that things are not moving along as quickly as you would like.
Be Honest with Your Therapist
Another way you can think about being realistic is that you need to be honest with yourself about the time you can commit to therapy and what you can expect to accomplish in that amount of time. But, honesty is not only important when it comes to your goals.
When making your initial plan about what you want to work on with your counselor, it is extremely important, to be honest about any struggles you are facing. Therapists are trained professionals and will never judge you for anything you tell them. Rather, it is crucial to be honest if you want to get the best possible outcomes from your therapy.
You should never feel embarrassed or ashamed about anything you need help with; therapists chose their career path because they want to help people overcome challenges. If you keep things concealed, you will not get the maximum benefit out of your time and financial investment that you make in therapy.
Take Guidance from Your Online Therapist
Your therapist cannot force you to do anything. All they can do is offer their opinion on your situation and give you suggestions on how you can work on things to feel better. Other than that, the power is in your hands. That being said, it is important to take the guidance of your counselor if you want to get anything out of your sessions. Some people feel better simply having someone to whom they can unload all of their worries, and for them, no outside work will be necessary. But, most people seek more from their online therapy experiences.
There is a saying with fitness that exercise "won't work unless you do." The same can be said about online therapy. If your therapists instruct you to do something or give you "homework," such as writing in a journal, it is because those activities are crucial to your treatment and will have a positive impact on your life. If you are unable to do everything your therapist asks you due to time constraints, that is okay, but be sure to let them know so they can create a new plan for you. Doing at least some of the work that your counselor gives you is key to getting the most out of the experience.
Talk to Your Partner About Online Therapy
If you seek online counseling for personal problems and would like to keep those things private, do not feel pressured to share with anyone else. But, if your reasons for seeking therapy have to do with your relationship, it can be very beneficial to discuss this with your partner. If you feel you need to seek help from a therapist to work on your relationship, it is important that your partner knows this so that they can also work towards improving the relationship.
In some cases, you may even choose to ask your partner to participate in online therapy with you as a couple. This way, the dialogue with the counselor becomes three-way. Couples therapy can be a very positive addition to a relationship and teach partners things about each other that they continue to benefit from long after they cease to work with a therapist regularly.
Be Compassionate During Therapy
Often during online therapy, people uncover things about themselves that they had been trying to push away for a while. Or, talking to a therapist may simply lead you to realize things about yourself that you never realized before.
Learning these things are extremely beneficial in the long run, but it is not always pleasant in the present moment. Therapy may force you to face things about yourself that you do not like. If this situation occurs, remember to be kind to yourself. Do not get angry with yourself or beat yourself up if you realize some negative traits in yourself. Remember to be compassionate and that you are doing online therapy to improve yourself. It is natural to feel upset upon learning certain things about yourself, but try to keep in mind that online therapy is a learning experience, and by learning these things you can improve yourself and feel happier in the long run.
Therapy Is Personal
Therapy is a personal experience, and not everyone will go into it seeking the same things. But, keeping these nine things in mind can ensure that you will get the most out of online therapy, regardless of what your specific goals are.
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If you need a crisis hotline or want to learn more about therapy, please see below:
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) - 1-800-656-4673
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255
National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233
NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) - 1-800-950-6264
For more information on mental health, please see:
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health)
- APA (American Psychiatric Association)