The threat of covid-19 in Canada has forced all of us to change how we live our lives: how we work, how we socialize, how we do errands… and, of course, how we receive services like mental health support.
Many of us were already receiving counselling before this all started. Others may start to seek counselling now due to anxiety and loneliness. Fortunately, therapists are currently offering phone or Skype counselling sessions instead of in-person meetings. At Vent Over Tea, we’ve also transitioned to offering virtual active listening.
Most of us are not used to receiving virtual mental health support. Here are a few tips to make the transition a little easier.
1. Test the platform
If you’re using Skype or another video conferencing platform, try to test it out before your first appointment. Maybe try calling a friend or family member to make sure you know how it works. This will help you maximise your time with your therapist or active listener once your session starts.
Try to familiarize yourself with the platform beforehand, or use a platform you already know.
If possible, try to use a platform that you are familiar with. The last thing you need is to waste valuable time with your provider because you’re trying to figure out basic commands.
2. Find a private space
During therapy or active listening sessions, we tend to discuss highly confidential matters. If you’re alone, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a comfortable place in your home for your virtual appointment.
However, when living with other people, you might have to take some measures to ensure you have a private space. It's a good idea to warn them ahead of time that you will be having a session, so they don’t interrupt you. Try to isolate yourself in a private room if possible: even the bathroom can work in a pinch. Wearing headphones will ensure that people around you don’t hear your therapist’s replies. If you are really stuck and can’t access a room indoors, you could try finding a quiet, isolated space outdoors or sitting in your car.
3. Take advantage of video calls
Although you’re likely more used to regular phone calls, video calls might be a better way to go in this particular situation. Being able to see your interlocutor will give you a heightened sense of intimacy and social contact, which is crucial when we’re all self-isolating.
Not to mention, video calls allow you and your therapist or active listener to see each other’s facial expressions and body language. There’s a lot that people don’t say with their words: your mental health provider can pick up extra information from nonverbal cues, which will lead to a deeper and clearer communication between the two of you.
4. Temper your expectations
Despite your best efforts, it’ll probably take some time for you to fully adjust to the change. Virtual mental health support may never replace in-person meetings. There will always be something lost when you are not in same room as the other person.
Among other things, technical glitches may interfere with the flow of the session. While these issues are undoubtedly annoying, it’s important to try and not focus on them too much. Ultimately, like many things right now, they are out of our control.
Remember that speaking to your therapist or an active listener can still have invaluable benefits for your mental health, even if you can’t see them face-to-face. Furthermore, this is also a great time to consider other virtual resources you may not have tried yet, like guided meditation videos or online yoga classes.
5. Try to look on the bright side
We all know that the current situation sucks in many ways. But dwelling on the negative won’t make things any better. On the contrary, focusing on the positive can at least improve your own well-being by making you feel more relaxed and optimistic.
Think of the advantages of meeting your counsellor or active listener virtually: for example, you can do it from the comfort of your own bed or sofa, while wearing your lazy pants. Plus, you save money on transportation, and you don’t have to worry about getting somewhere on time, being stuck in traffic, or missing your bus. There’s always a silver lining, no matter how thin.
If you’re not comfortable with receiving virtual mental health support, that’s perfectly fine too. There are other ways to take care of yourself: you can release stress by taking walks or reading a good book, and alleviate your loneliness by scheduling calls with your friends. However, if you are experiencing a mental health crisis or any form of abuse, it’s important to reach out for help. Here are some Montreal-based resources to contact in an emergency:
General Health Info: 811
Suicide Action Montreal: 514-723-4000
Tracom Crisis Center : 514-483-3033
WomenAWARE (support for victims of abuse): (514) 489-1110 or toll free 1-866-489-1110
Phone calls and Skype sessions may be an unorthodox way to receive mental health support, but in these exceptional times, we all need to make adjustments to our routine. Remember that help is available, so let’s do our best as a community to stay safe and take care of ourselves.