- Therapy (and other health services), from the point of view of health care professionals all over the world, has shifted in the past few weeks to a virtual format. This has not changed the fundamentals of our health practises. However, it has asked us to reconsider our routines and rituals.
- To optimize connection during sessions with clients, here are 10 keys to consider: plan ahead, troubleshoot your technology, come prepared, create a mindful ritual, dance it out, stretch, check in with yourself, sit in silence, ground yourself and capture the wisdom.
For some health care professionals, connecting with their therapy clients online is common practice. For another portion of health care professionals, the changes in the world lately have unavoidably shifted their practice to an online format.
In either case, online practices naturally look and feel different online than they do in person. This has been an adjustment for all. To help you optimize your online client connections, here are 10 keys that you can use to optimize your connections in the individual or group sessions.
I add all of my virtual connection opportunities to my calendar. This has helped me to structure my day and keep all important information in one convenient location (maintaining confidentiality of course).
This practice has also helped me to ensure that I get opportunities during my week to get off-line. This helps prevent me from “virtual chat fatigue.”
Depending on your own needs, you might also want to plan ahead to find balance in your professional life between your online and off-line work tasks.
Troubleshoot Your Technology
I can certainly admit to having a love/hate relationship with technology. I am very grateful that it provides me with the opportunity to maintain client facing work throughout these difficult times and in my day-to-day practice. However, it can be difficult to work with as unexpected technology issues can arise.
It has therefore become a part of my daily routine to test the technology I use to connect as a therapist. This gives me plenty of time to adjust the video, audio or other features ahead of time.
I also keep a list of numbers I can call if anything goes array during a session.
I am certainly a planner (like the previous two keys would indicate). I like to grab the essentials for my session and set them up near my work station. This includes water, paper and a pen, tissues, headphones, my laptop and its charger, and anything else I can think of.
I prepare for anything that has the potential to interrupt my session (just like I would in person). I also keep a running list of these items to avoid forgetting anything. Finally, on this same list, I track my needs during a given call. That way, I can prepare accordingly for my next virtual call.
Create a Mindful Ritual
I always think about how I am arriving to a space—both physically and mentally. This is especially important because there is sometimes a considerable shift in energy from my previous task to an online session with a client.
I try to shift my headspace by creating a ritual for myself that advises my brain that I am now connecting with a client (previously cued by going to get a client in a waiting area). My ritual starts with making myself a cup of tea. I stand in my kitchen while the water boils, choosing a special mug and tea for the session.
This is the start of my mindful ritual. And it continues through the next few keys.
Dance It Out
I want to increase my energy levels right before a chat to help me stay engaged. The best way I know to be able to do this is through moving my body. My choice of activity is dance because (1) it does not exhaust me completely and (2) it has an added benefit of lifting my happiness levels.
Next, I arrive to my yoga mat to stretch out some of my aches and pains. Especially when I have multiple client sessions in a day, I find myself sitting most of the time. Through stretching, I try to settle my body as much as possible to avoid having to use some of my mental energy during the session because I am feeling uncomfortable.
This key will look very different for everyone. However, I have noted over the past weeks that this does not have to be anything physically demanding. Light stretches have helped me better show up to virtual sessions.
Check-in With Yourself
This key helps me transition to more of an introspective space. I like to check in with myself to better understand where I am coming from when arriving in a context where I will have the opportunity to connect with clients where they are at.
I take a few minutes to think about how I am showing up to the chat. I think of the emotions I might be experiencing, thoughts that are running through my mind and if there are any unresolved or unfinished tasks that are still occupying some mental space.
Sit in Silence
Depending on my perspective in that moment, I choose one of three ways to sit in silence with myself:
(1) I take three deep breaths—counting to four when inhaling and six when exhaling.
(2) I take two minutes to do a sitting meditation—using the timer on my phone.
(3) I take five minutes to do a laying down meditation—using a meditation app on my phone to guide me.
Online, as you are not sitting in a physical space with others, connection looks very different than what we are used to. The virtual space that we take can make it increasingly difficult for us to stay fully present during a session. To ensure that I connect in similar ways as I would in person, I use a grounding practice.
This technique is very simple, yet very effective. I simply let myself relax into the physical space I am occupying—either the ground or the chair I sit on. I focus my attention on the points of contact between my body and the ground or chair. I visualize my feet sinking into the ground, my legs onto the seat and my back onto the chair.
This strategy is most effective in the seconds before I enter a session. It can also be useful during a session in moments when I find myself unfocused.
Capture the Wisdom
I strongly believe in the power of connection. Through my sessions with clients, I have been able to reflect with my clients on the takeaways from our chat. These have been moments that I want to hold on for myself and the client.
** Original content previously published by Gabrielle at Young Adult Cancer Canada.