Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
Teletherapy Survival Tips for Clinicians
Teletherapy . . . Telehealth . . . Telemedicine . . . Telemental Health . . . Telepractice . . . Televideo . . . Internet Therapy . . . Online Therapy . . .
Teletherapy is everywhere. Like it or not, telehealth is here to stay during the current crisis—and is likely to stay in some form after it ends.
What’s a therapist to do? How can a therapist survive, and better yet, thrive, while doing so many live teletherapy sessions with clients?
Many therapists are now working from home for the first time doing therapy with clients using online video or telephone platforms in place of in person sessions. While working from home as a Teletherapy provider allows therapists to have a flexible work schedule and many other conveniences, the shift to virtual comes with many new challenges and stressors as we're adapting to what’s going on in the world and to this new setting and medium.
While Teletherapy is still therapy, it has idiosyncrasies. When doing a remote session it’s a much more exacting, labor intensive process for a skilled therapist to work effectively with the same things they do in person. Facilitating therapeutic communication and interaction is definitely different when you and your client aren’t in the same room—it requires another kind of focus, concentration, and energy. Add to that the fact that most therapists are now juggling a work-from-home therapy practice alongside home and family life while everyone's at home, too. The result? Therapists are reporting how exhausted they are after providing Teletherapy services to clients.
Teletherapy exhaustion, burnout, and fatigue are real.
Why is delivering Telehealth services so tiring? Conveying professionalism through a Teletherapy portal in your home requires that we develop and utilize a therapeutic telepresence and a “web-side” manner while conducting sessions through a screen—and that’s very fatiguing. Therapists are also finding that Telehealth delivery does not lend itself to the same type of marginless in-office scheduling where clients are seen back to back without any breaks.
Teletherapy is a much more strenuous delivery system than in-office therapy. That shouldn't be surprising since it’s well documented that sustained and prolonged use of digital devices—computers, tablets, smartwatches, smartphones—for video sessions and meetings leads to exhaustion, computer eye strain, dry eyes, focusing fatigue, and neck, shoulder, and back pain.
Here are tips for reducing the fatigue, stresses, and challenges of telehealth and conducting video therapy sessions, groups and meetings. Think of these tips as a menu of options. Try the ones that suit you, discard the ones that don’t.
Teletherapy Survival Tips for Clinicians
1. Teletherapy relies on a strong internet or phone connection.
Poor internet or phone quality is one thing that not only makes clients upset, it negatively impacts therapeutic communication, the therapist client connection, and the outcome of therapy. Anytime video gets glitchy and skips, sputters, gets pixelated or freezes the image—or the audio stops, develops, an echo or keeps cutting out—it becomes difficult to maintain therapeutic communication and the therapeutic connection diminishes.
Therapists need the best, most reliable internet connection—and Telehealth delivery platform—that they can get. Whether poor quality is on the client or therapist side, the experience of therapy deteriorates without solid audio and video. Poor internet or phone quality definitely interferes with progress, the outcome of the session, and the the therapeutic alliance.
Before scheduling a session, be sure to check whether the client has a good enough internet or phone connection, and the right type of equipment/device for video sessions, otherwise a different type of Teletherapy is needed.
2. Create the right environment for you.
Just as your office set-up is a key part of your in-person practice, how you arrange your remote office can make a big difference in your sessions.
3. Create the right environment for the client.
4. Ways to reduce exhaustion and minimize fatigue, dry eyes, computer eye strain, focusing fatigue, and back, neck, and shoulder pain.
5. Consider using phone sessions.
While many therapists have made the switch to offering Telehealth services, the transition to Teletherapy takes getting used to! Although we miss the rhythm of our usual practice, our clients, and our office, we recognize our good fortune in having jobs and being able to continue to provide therapy.
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative people across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping develop successful careers and thriving practices. To learn more about her services, training or the monthly LA Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com and www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.
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California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists
Los Angeles Chapter