Transitioning to Telehealth: Be Open

BY ALIYAH VINIKOOR, LICSW, MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELOR AT JFS 

This is the third and final post in a new blog series on best practices when transitioning to online therapy. You can also read the first and second entries, “Preparing for your Session”  and “Adjusting Expectations.”

As with any form of therapy, what you bring to teletherapy determines what you get out of it. Especially as we’re managing unprecedented times of uncertainty, it’s important to be honest with your therapist about your well-being, speak up if you need more support, and commit to the therapeutic process. While it’s normal to feel nervous about starting something new, most clients have reported feeling comfortable doing therapy from their homes – with some people feeling even more able to open up, be vulnerable, and bring their authentic selves to the relationship.

Here are some recommendations for optimizing teletherapy:

  • Be Honest: What haunts you in the middle of the night? What secrets are you keeping from yourself or others? Surfacing these things can lead to tremendous growth and healing. Therapy should be your safe space—everything you discuss, whether in-person or via teletherapy, will remain confidential (unless you’re at risk of harming yourself or others).
  • Get Messy: These are trying times and therapy should offer a release valve. You deserve to let out your fear, grief, anger, and other emotions that need to be contained during the week to manage life’s daily needs. A good therapist will welcome them all—and will work with you to come back to a grounded place of functioning before your session is over.
  • Keep the Attention on You: Therapy may be the only time during the week when you’re able to focus completely on yourself. While it can feel good to vent about what others did and how they made you feel, it’s important to bring your attention inward. Checking in with ourselves helps us stay centered and able to eke out some peace within the chaos that might be surrounding us.
  • Focus on Goals: At JFS, we co-create a list of goals that help guide our therapy work. My clients and I have found that even during a crisis, the issues that arise tend to hit upon the same concerns that brought people into therapy in the first place. This is a time to continue and deepen this work—not abandon it. As filmmaker and activist Valerie Kaur shared, when we’re feeling hopeless about the state of the world we can ask, “What if this is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?” We need to continue to work on our resilience, inner-strength, and relationships in order to emerge from this crisis with our hearts and integrity intact—and maybe with a greater appreciation for ourselves.

If you need mental health support right now, please contact cas@jfsseattle.org or (206)-861-3152. JFS is here to help, and we offer our services on a sliding scale. We also accept insurance. You can also visit our Counseling & Addiction Services webpage here for more information, as well as our Project DVORA (domestic violence services) page here.

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