Take care of your behavioral health virtually with virtual care

Take care of your behavioral health virtually with virtual care

Here are just a few of the benefits of talking with a trained behavioral health professional—virtually or in person.

Take care of your behavioral health virtually with virtual care

It’s been a challenging time—and we’re not at the finish line yet. Research from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that rates of depression and anxiety are spiking, largely thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thankfully, virtual care allows you to get help for your behavioral health from the comfort and safety of your own home. And contrary to popular belief, getting help for behavioral health issues online can be just as effective as in-person therapy.

“It really comes down to our mindset, and how we choose to perceive the differences between virtual and in-person therapy,” says Nicole Lipkin, Psy.D., a clinical and organizational psychologist and the owner of Equilibria Psychological and Consultation Services. Therapy in any form is only as effective as you allow it to be, she adds.

Here are just a few of the benefits of talking with a trained behavioral health professional—virtually or in person.

Therapy can help you organize your thoughts
Whether in person, on the phone, or through a video call, talking about things that worry or upset you helps to release those thoughts from your brain so they don’t build up (and possibly grow stronger) over time. “Having a trusted partner like a therapist you can talk with really helps release this buildup over time,” Dr. Lipkin says.

Of course, your problems won’t disappear after a single therapy session. But chances are your head will feel a little clearer and you may feel a little lighter after you start talking. And once you’ve cleared some mental space, you’ll be in a better spot to handle any stress that comes your way, Dr. Lipkin. notes. 

You’ll gain a fresh perspective
“I like to equate therapy to a to-do list,” Dr. Lipkin says. “When you keep a to-do list in your head, it becomes this massive, stressful, crazy beast. But when you start talking [about] it out loud or getting it on paper, you start to realize what’s urgent versus what’s not.”

Similarly, talking about your problems with someone you trust may help you realize that some issues might be easier to address than you thought. Or, you may find that smaller problems are really masking a much larger issue. Your therapist can help you clarify what’s troubling you and then help you work through or problem-solve your issues.

The way you think will be challenged
It’s easy to get stuck in your own head and repeat the same negative thoughts over and over (“I haven’t seen my friends in months,” “The world will never be normal again,” etc.). Luckily, virtual therapy can help you get unstuck. “It allows someone else to really challenge us on the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we’re putting our thought processes together,” Dr. Lipkin says.

Your therapist can help you recognize harmful and false self-beliefs and offer tools to shift your thoughts in a healthier direction.  

How to make the most of your virtual care sessions
Here are a few ways you can make your virtual therapy sessions a success.

Step 1: Keep an open mind
Even if you’re skeptical about virtual care, it’s important to go in with a positive mindset. “The bottom line is, if you have this mindset that telemedicine isn’t going to work, or that it’s inferior to in-person therapy, then it’s going to feel that way,” Dr. Lipkin says.

Step 2: Change your environment
“One of the things that’s so nice about in-person therapy is that it’s a change of environment,” Dr. Lipkin stresses. Pre-pandemic, leaving your home or office and visiting a different location for an hour was often just enough for a much-needed mental break.

Simulate the sensation of visiting your therapist’s office by doing your session in a different room. Or, if you have a small apartment, try moving to a different corner or rearranging nearby furniture.

Step 3: Communicate with your therapist
One of the downsides of virtual care is it can be harder for your therapist to read your mood and energy. If you go into a session feeling fatigued or upset, it can be helpful to share that with your therapist. “Giving that information to your therapist versus having them guess is really useful, so they can meet you where you are,” Dr. Lipkin says.

Similarly, don’t be afraid to ask your therapist about alternatives to video calls, if needed. For example, if you spend your days sitting in front of a computer screen, or hopping from one Zoom call to the next, a video visit may not be ideal. “Being on your computer all day can be exhausting. But you know what? You can do [your session] on the phone and go for a walk, so long as there’s privacy,” Dr. Lipkin says.

After restrictions are lifted, following the COVID-19 pandemic, therapists may limit the kinds of visits that are allowed without HIPAA-compliant video chat in the future. In the meantime, sharing information with your therapist can help make your virtual sessions more effective and enjoyable.