Your Guide to Online Therapy: What to expect?

Written By

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Updated:

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Yoru Guide To Online Therapy

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This blog post will explore what to expect from your first online therapy session.

Online therapy can be a life-changing experience, but it can also be a daunting process to navigate. Whether you’re new to therapy or you’re seeking a new therapist, a therapy consultation can be a great way to get started.

Initial consultation

Once you have found and matched with your therapist, the next step is the online therapy consultation, an initial meeting between a potential client and a mental health professional.

This meeting is designed to help both the client and therapist determine if they are a good fit for each other and takes place via a video chat or a phone call.

  • It allows the client and therapist to get to know each other and determine if they are a good fit for working together. It is an opportunity for the client to share their concerns and goals for therapy and for the therapist to gather information about the client’s needs.
It's important to note that an online therapy consultation is not an actual therapy session.

Instead, it’s an initial greet and meet that allows the client and therapist to decide if they want to work together and to set expectations for the therapeutic process.

  • If both the client and therapist feel they will work well together after the initial session, they can decide to continue with ongoing therapy.
  • Typically, in-person therapy sessions are scheduled every other week, while online sessions may be scheduled once a week or bi-weekly.
  • The frequency can be adjusted over time depending on the individual’s needs and preferences. The most important factor is that the client feels comfortable opening up to and connecting with the therapist.

One key advantage of online therapy platforms like BetterHelp.com is the ability to easily switch therapists if you do not feel your current match is optimal.

Experts recommend giving a therapist at least 3-5 sessions to establish rapport before deciding whether to switch.

How To Do Online Therapy

During an online therapy consultation, the therapist will likely ask the client about their reasons for seeking therapy and their goals for the therapeutic process.

The client may also have the opportunity to ask the therapist questions about their qualifications, approach to therapy, and experience working with clients who have similar concerns.

Starting therapy

Before the consultation, you will likely need to complete some paperwork and questionnaires.

This standard procedure helps the therapist gather information about your medical history, current symptoms, and any other concerns you may have.

This information will be used to support the therapist in understanding your needs and providing appropriate recommendations.

During the consultation, the therapist will likely start by asking some basic questions about your background, including your family history, work history, and any significant life events.

They may also ask about your symptoms and what led you to seek therapy in the first place. It’s essential to be honest and open during this process, as it will help the therapist understand your needs and provide appropriate recommendations.

The therapist will likely also ask you about your goals for therapy. This is an integral part of the consultation, as it helps the therapist understand what you hope to achieve through treatment.

Your goals may be specific, such as managing anxiety or improving communication in your relationships, or they may be more general, such as wanting to feel happier and more fulfilled in your life.

Once the therapist has a good understanding of your needs and goals, they will provide recommendations for the next steps.

This may include scheduling ongoing therapy sessions with the therapist or referrals to other mental health professionals who may be better suited to meet your needs.

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Benefits of teletherapy

If you’re considering your first online therapy consultation, you may be wondering what to expect.

There are benefits to choosing an online therapy consultation, including convenience, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness.

  • One of the most significant benefits of online therapy is convenience.
  • You can attend the consultation from the comfort of your own home, which can be especially helpful for those with anxiety or other issues that make it difficult to leave the house.
  • You don’t have to worry about getting dressed or fighting traffic, which can be a significant source of stress for many people.
  • Flexibility is another advantage of online therapy consultations. You can schedule the session at a time that works for you, which can be especially helpful for those with busy schedules. You don’t have to worry about rearranging your entire day for a therapy appointment.
  • Access to a broader range of therapists: Online therapy allows you to connect with therapists from all over the world, so you can find someone who specializes in the specific issue you’re dealing with. This is especially helpful for those living in remote areas or having limited mental health services access.
  • Increased comfort and openness: Some people may find opening up to a therapist online rather than in person easier. Being in your environment can help you feel more comfortable, leading to more openness and honesty in your sessions.
  • Ability to re-watch and review sessions: You can record and re-watch the sessions later with online therapy consultations. This can be helpful for those who want to review what was discussed or may have missed something crucial during the session.
  • Less stigma: Unfortunately, some stigma surrounds mental health issues. Online therapy consultations can help reduce this stigma by providing a more discreet way to seek help.
  • Last but certainly not least, online therapy consultations are often more cost-effective than in-person consultations, which means you can get the help you need without breaking the bank. You don’t have to worry about paying for gas, parking, or childcare, which can add up quickly.

How to prepare for your first therapy session?

To get the most out of your first online therapy consultation, it’s essential to be prepared. If you’re preparing for your online session, there are a few things you can do to ensure that it goes smoothly and that you get the most out of your first session.

a woman and a cat is sitting looking at the laptop while the woman is writing something down

Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Write down your concerns: Before the consultation, take some time to write down your concerns and any symptoms you may be experiencing. This will help you stay focused and ensure you don’t forget anything during the consultation. Having a list can also help you articulate your thoughts and feelings more clearly, which can be helpful for the therapist.
  • Choose a quiet, private space: Make sure you have a quiet, private space to take the consultation without interruptions or distractions. This will help you feel more comfortable and ensure you can speak freely without worrying about who might be listening.
  • Test your technology: Before the consultation, ensure your computer or phone is working correctly, and you have a good internet connection. You don’t want technical difficulties to disrupt your session, so ensuring everything is working correctly beforehand is essential.
  • Have a list of questions: It’s a good idea to prepare a list of questions for the therapist. This can help you get the necessary information and ensure you don’t forget anything important. Some questions you might want to ask include the following:
    • What type of therapy do you recommend for my specific issue?
    • How often should we have follow-up sessions?
    • Are there any specific strategies or exercises I can try at home?

Be honest and open. The therapist is there to help you, and they need accurate information to provide appropriate recommendations.

Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and feelings, even if they feel uncomfortable or embarrassing. A good therapist is there to help you, not to judge you.

A few examples of licensed therapists available on BetterHelp

Photo of Iris Wilsek Meet Iris Wilsek, LCSW

I am a licensed Clinical Social Worker with two decades of professional work. My experience spans both inpatient and outpatient organizations, in addition to over 10 years of private practice. My certification in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has aided me in assisting clients with a variety of issues, such as stress, anxiety, trauma and abuse, anger management, and depression. I strive to create a welcoming environment where my clients feel free to express their thoughts and feelings without fear of criticism.

Photo of Roseline Shofolu Meet Roseline Shofolu, LMHC

As a licensed professional, I have amassed 7 years of valuable experience in aiding clients with addiction-related issues. I prioritize creating a comfortable and judgment-free zone for clients to share their thoughts and emotions. It takes bravery to seek out therapy, so congratulations on taking the first step towards betterment!

Photo of Dr. Robert Cipriano Meet Dr. Robert Cipriano, Jr, Psy.D.,ABPP

Dr. Robert J. Cipriano Jr. is a licensed psychologist with 20 years of experience. He is certified in Police and Public Safety Psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). Dr. Cipriano specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for clients experiencing trauma. He has provided therapy and clinical services to trauma-intensive care units and inpatient behavioral health units at a major trauma hospital. Dr. Cipriano has also provided over 200 critical incident stress debriefings (CISD) and worked as a staff psychologist for a Crisis Negotiation Team for a large police department in the southeastern US.

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4.5 (7,108+) FROM TRUSTPILOT

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✓ Over 33K licensed professionals

✓ Financial aid available

✓ Subscriptions as low as $65/week, billed every four weeks

✓ Cancel plan or change therapist anytime

✓ 20% off your first month through Therapy Helpers

What to expect after the first online therapy session

  • Schedule follow-up appointments once a week or bi-weekly via video chat, phone calls, or messaging. Frequency can be adjusted based on your needs.
  • Video sessions allow face-to-face communication. To optimize video therapy, create an ideal space with no distractions and come prepared to discuss goals.
  • Some therapists may assign “homework” activities or exercises to practice between sessions. This helps build skills and integrate therapy benefits.
  • Communicate openly between appointments if any issues arise so you can problem-solve with your therapist.
  • Finding the right schedule and communication medium that works best for you is key.
  • Establishing rapport, trust, and a comfortable connection with your therapist is essential for progress.

Tips for finding the right online therapist for your needs

Here are some additional important considerations when choosing an online therapist:

  • Modality – Does the therapist offer video, phone, chat, or a blend? Think about which you’d be most comfortable with.
  • Licensing – Confirm the therapist is licensed in your state if required. Look for information on their profile or website and check with the state licensing board.
  • Specializations – Search for a therapist experienced with your specific concerns, like anxiety, depression, trauma, etc.
  • Communication – Ask how often you can connect between sessions if needed. Messaging may be an option and will it cost extra?
  • Emergency plans – Discuss upfront how crisis situations will be handled online vs. in-person. Know the protocols and have a list of nearby hospitals and crisis helplines always handy.
  • Tech skills – Evaluate not just your own tech abilities, but the therapist’s comfort with the platform. It should aid communication.
  • Distractions – Minimize interruptions during sessions by planning childcare if needed, shutting off notifications, and choosing a comfortable environment for yourself.
  • Boundaries – Set expectations together on appointment times, email/messaging response times, and video settings like attire and environment.
  • Missed appointments – Check if there are any fees or penalties for missing or rescheduling appointments.
  • Connection – Trust your gut on the relationship. It’s okay to ask to switch therapists or consider in-office counseling if unable to build rapport through teletherapy.
  • Patience – Don’t get discouraged if progress feels slow at first. The distance creates new challenges that can be overcome.

The ideal online therapist balances professional expertise with adaptability to virtual sessions. Do your prep work to find the right fit.

Ad, keeps our community free. Therapy Helpers does not accept money for reviews.

betterhelp logo
stars

4.5 (7,108+) FROM TRUSTPILOT

Fill out a brief questionnaire and get matched with an experienced therapist online in as little as 48 hours.

✓ Over 33K licensed professionals

✓ Financial aid available

✓ Subscriptions as low as $65/week, billed every four weeks

✓ Cancel plan or change therapist anytime

✓ 20% off your first month through Therapy Helpers

Takeaway

In conclusion, an online therapy consultation is a great way to get started with therapy. It allows you to meet with a mental health professional from the comfort of your home and provides an opportunity to discuss your concerns and goals for therapy.

Following the tips above and being open and honest during the consultation, you can get the help you need and start your journey toward a happier, healthier life.

Remember, therapy is a process, and it takes time to see results. But with the right therapist and a commitment to the process, you can make meaningful progress and achieve your goals.

“Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.”

— ERIK ERIKSON


Frequently Asked Questions

What are some drawbacks of online therapy?

Potential disadvantages to consider:

  • Lack of in-person interactions. Harder to pick up on non-verbal cues.
  • Technical issues can disrupt sessions. Make sure your internet connection and the devices you use to connect are reliable.
  • Insurance coverage varies for online therapy with some plans that may provide partial reimbursement. Confirm benefits before starting.

What are the best questions to ask a therapist before starting therapy?

Questions to ask potential therapists:

  • What is your therapeutic approach? Look for a style that matches your goals.
  • What online platform do you use? Assess ease of use and review their privacy policy.
  • When are you available for appointments? The schedule should fit your needs.
  • Do you accept my insurance? If not, what are the out-of-pocket costs per session?

Do your research to find an accredited provider experienced with online counseling. Consider having intro calls with a few therapists before committing. Be open about your goals and needs to determine if it’s a good match.


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What to expect from a therapy session | Alexis Powell-Howard | TEDxPatras

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About the author

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Helen Kaminski, MSc

Mindful living for a happier, healthier you. I’m a writer and mental health advocate in Warsaw, Poland, with five years working as a therapist. I hold a psychology degree from the University of Warsaw. I specialize in writing about mental health, using my experiences and academic background to educate and inspire others. In my free time, I volunteer at a Disability Learning Center and go for nature walks. My writing aims to break down mental health stigma and help others feel understood. Social

8 thoughts on “Your Guide to Online Therapy: What to expect?”

  1. Overall, this article made me feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of trying online therapy. It seems like a convenient and accessible way to take care of your mental health. I’m going to start researching some providers and hopefully give it a shot. Just knowing what I can expect going in makes it much less intimidating. Thanks for the helpful guide!

    Reply
    • Hi there!

      I’m so glad to hear that the article helped make online therapy feel more approachable for you. I completely relate to feeling a bit intimidated at first. There are so many options out there and it’s hard to know what to expect. Having a clear idea of the process and what an online therapy session might look like can definitely ease some of that anxiety. And you’re absolutely right, the convenience and accessibility are huge benefits. Being able to connect with a therapist from the comfort of home makes it so much easier to prioritize your mental health.

      Reply
  2. I found this article to be super informative! I’ve been considering trying online therapy for a while now, but I wasn’t sure what to expect or how it all worked. This guide broke it down really clearly.

    Reply
    • That’s wonderful to hear that the article helped ease your concerns about trying online therapy! Wishing you all the best as you begin your online therapy journey! Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions. Taking care of your mental health is one of the best investments you can make.

      Reply
  3. I appreciated the honest discussion of the potential downsides, like technical difficulties or the fact that it’s not appropriate for every situation, like if you’re having thoughts of self-harm. It’s good to have a balanced perspective.

    Reply
    • You make a great point about the importance of considering the potential limitations of online therapy. While it can be incredibly helpful for many people, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Recognizing the limitations doesn’t negate the significant advantages of online therapy in terms of accessibility and convenience. But you’re spot on that a balanced, realistic view is key. Thank you for highlighting that important aspect of the discussion!

      Reply
  4. I was unsure about trying online therapy, but this article broke it down in a really helpful way. I liked that it went through how the technology works, what happens in a typical video session, and tips on how to get the most out of it. I didn’t realize there are tools for sharing diagrams or written notes – good to know!

    My biggest worry was not developing a real connection with the therapist online, but they made a good point about being able to see body language and facial expressions if you have the camera on. I can see how that might actually help some people open up more than sitting in an office. Also good to know most platforms have a way to switch therapists if you don’t mesh well the first time.

    Reply
    • Hi there! I’m so glad to hear that the article helped clarify some things about online therapy for you. It’s totally normal to have some hesitations or questions about how it all works.

      You’re right that the technology aspect can seem a bit daunting at first, but most platforms are designed to be user-friendly. Things like screen sharing and digital whiteboards can actually add some helpful interactive elements to the session. And like you mentioned, being able to see each other’s faces and body language can really help foster that personal connection, even through a screen.

      Building rapport with your therapist is so important, whether you’re meeting in-person or online. It’s great that the article highlighted how you’re not stuck with the first therapist you try. Sometimes it takes a session or two to get a feel for whether it’s a good therapeutic match. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and switch providers if needed until you find someone you really click with.

      I hope this article gave you the information and reassurance you needed to consider giving online therapy a try. Remember, starting therapy is a brave step – be proud of yourself for prioritizing your mental health! Wishing you all the best moving forward.

      Reply

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