9 Tips for College Students Starting Teletherapy

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College is a hectic time for students. It’s full of exciting realizations and life-changing lessons. But things can feel out of control a lot of the time. You’re on your own for the first time, trying to figure out what you want your life to look like. You have more freedom than ever, but may feel like you know less about yourself and the world than ever before.

College and Therapy Go Hand in Hand

Therapy can be an effective form of support for college students making their way through these formative years. On-campus therapy resources are often stretched thin, with therapists low on time and availability because demand is so high.

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to access therapy online. Virtual teletherapy sessions are convenient and, since you have more options for therapists, you’ll often have better luck and a more supportive environment where you can focus on your needs. It’s no wonder teletherapy can be one of the best therapy options for a lot of college students.

Whether you’re just starting therapy for the first time in your life or you’re looking to give teletherapy a try, follow these tips to make starting teletherapy a little easier.

1. Use the Same Space Every Time

You want to be in the right mindset to get yourself into therapy mode. If you’ve ever done in-person therapy, you probably know from experience that it’s easy to get into therapy mode when you’re in your therapist’s office. It’s a location you never spend time in otherwise, so it’s easy to get your brain into that mindset. It’s easy to feel emotionally and physically comfortable in the space.

To the extent possible, try to replicate that with online therapy. It doesn’t have to be a glamorous space; just do what you can to make it feel comfortable. Your physical environment can dramatically impact your emotional and mental state, so you want to aim to establish familiarity, safety, and comfort.

If you know you’ll be using the same space for each teletherapy session, you’ll be able to start feeling more comfortable each time you’re there. That sets you up for more productive sessions and helps you get more used to therapy and your environment.

2. Set Yourself Up to Be Able to Focus During Your Appointment

Successful therapy sessions rely on a certain amount of comfort and familiarity. But you also need a balance of focus and seriousness to get the most out of your appointments. 

In some ways, it can be helpful to treat your therapy sessions like one of your classes. You can certainly get cozy during your appointment, but having just a touch of formality puts you in the headspace to pay attention to what your therapist is saying. It’ll also help you more clearly articulate your feelings and thoughts.

3. Have Earbuds or Headphones and a Microphone Ready

Set aside a few minutes before each session (especially your first one) to make sure your device is working properly and your internet connection is secure. Test your audio and video quality and internet connection beforehand. If you can hook up your device to ethernet, do that. It’ll get you a more stable internet connection.

You want privacy and good audio quality without interference. There’s nothing worse than having to interrupt a therapy epiphany because your audio is blipping. And always let your therapist know if you can’t hear them well enough.

4. Consider Taking the Appointment in a Private Location

If you live in a dorm or have a roommate, plan ahead so your appointments are always during a time when your roommate is gone or busy. If you feel comfortable, you can just tell them why and they can plan to be in a common area at a set time every week during your appointment. If you’re not comfortable telling them you’re in therapy, you can tell them you have a standing engagement during that time. They’ll assume it’s an online class and probably won’t push for details.

If your room isn’t private enough or that plan falls through, try using a study room somewhere on campus. Libraries, student centers, someone else’s apartment, or any common areas you can reserve ahead of time in your dorm or apartment building will do. If you don’t know how to go about that, ask your RA for help or reach out to campus student services. They know the resources available to you and can help you find the right one for you.

You want the location to be as quiet and private as possible, with no noise interference or distractions. Lock the door if you can. If you can’t, hang a homemade sign or sticky note on the door asking them not to disturb you.

5. Come Ready with Notes

This is a good general practice for therapy, but you definitely want to do this if it’s your first teletherapy session or if you’re starting with a new therapist.

At the very least, write down these 2 pieces of info beforehand:

  • All your symptoms
  • Any questions you want to ask your therapist

It’s also good to come prepared with anything currently going on in your life that you want to discuss (this probably overlaps with your symptoms, but this topic can be broader or narrower).

Even if you’re not nervous, it’s easy to forget questions and symptoms during a therapy session. And you only have 50 minutes, so you want to make the most of your time instead of having to jog your memory while the clock’s ticking. It’s human nature to forget what you want to ask a medical professional, so this is a good skill to get used to. 

You might feel kind of silly if this generally isn’t your style, but it’s an everyday occurrence for therapists to see from their patients, so it’s not like you’ll seem strange for doing it.

6. Be Ready to Book Your Next Appointment

Most people don’t just see a therapist once or twice. Unless you have something very specific you need help with, you can expect to see your therapist for at least a few months. Some people end up finding therapy really rewarding and stay in therapy for a long time – especially in college, when your life seems to turn upside-down every semester.

Have your day planner, calendar, or whatever you use to keep track of your life ready at your appointment so you can book your next appointment before hanging up with your therapist. This gives you the best chances of getting the time slot you want, which will save you a scheduling hassle later.

7. Pay Attention to Your Body Language and Facial Expressions

During a virtual therapy session, your therapist is sometimes at a disadvantage because they can’t see your facial expressions or body language as clearly as they would be able to in person. This can make it harder for them to interpret what you’re communicating.

To help your therapist, make sure they have a clear view of you. This helps establish rapport with you and your therapist and helps them do their job better. (This is another reason why you want to be somewhere private so you don’t have to wear a mask.)

8. Relax and Remember the Session is Confidential

You can say anything to your therapist without worrying about repercussions. Your therapist needs your permission to share any information about you, including the fact that they even know who you are outside therapy. 

The only exception is if you tell them you’re a danger to yourself or others. And most therapists will try to work with you through those issues as well without getting others involved because they know how important trust is to your relationship with them.

9. Set a Comfortable Pace

Therapists are trained to help you deal with all kinds of situations, even difficult ones. But they need to know what’s going on with you in order to be able to help. 

That doesn’t mean you have to immediately tell them your whole life story on day 1. You’ll probably naturally start to open up more as you get to know your therapist better, but you can trust that you’re able to tell your therapist about anything, even if you’ve never told anyone else. 

But your therapist shouldn’t pressure you to disclose things you’re not comfortable telling them. Your relationship with your therapist is like any other relationship in that it takes time to develop. This includes psychological and physical symptoms like lack of energy, apathy, fatigue, food issues, or anything else.

Therapy should be a space where you feel safe and free from judgment. If you ever feel like your therapist is judging you, it’s entirely within your rights to bring that up to your therapist. That can be a simple miscommunication that you two can work out together during sessions, or it can be a sign that might be the right therapist for you.

College students often suffer when they don’t get the support they need. Some people get all the support they need from their friends, family, and school. But they’re in the minority. If you’re feeling like you’re on your own, overwhelmed, or even scared, that’s totally understandable, especially at this point in your life. Therapy can be a fantastic tool to help you feel supported and guided through what may well be the most stressful, formative years of your life thus far.

With therapy, you tend to get what you put in. Make sure you come prepared, be honest with yourself and your therapist, and stay open to growth and change.

If you are interested in starting your journey with teletherapy, SohoMD has a handful of providers ready to help you. Learn more about our teletherapy services here. 

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