What is Virtual Therapy?
Virtual therapy (or teletherapy) is mental health counselling provided online or over the phone. Due to the ongoing pandemic and the potential for exposure given increased cases of COVID-19, all in person counselling has been transitioned to virtual sessions for the time being. At Toronto Psychological Services & Research Centre, our clinical therapists have experience providing virtual therapy and can help smooth the transition from in person to virtual, to ensure continued access to mental health services and ongoing care throughout the pandemic.
What Platform Does TPS Use to Provide Virtual Therapy?
Toronto Psychological Services & Research Centre uses a secure, licensed Zoom account which is compliant with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) to ensure confidentiality for all our clients.
Best Practices for Virtual Therapy:
Step 1: Choose a device.
For a video appointment, you will need access to a computer, tablet, or smartphone with a webcam, microphone, and internet connection.
Step 2: Set up a Zoom account.
If you plan to attend regular therapy appointments, it may be beneficial to create a Zoom account to ensure quick and easy access for your sessions. To do so, go to zoom.com and click on “Sign Up, It’s Free”. Follow the prompts by inputting a valid email address and password of your choice to successfully set up your account.
If you do not wish to create a Zoom account, do not worry! You can still use Zoom to attend virtual sessions. Simply go to zoom.com, click on “Join a Meeting”, and input the Meeting ID or Personal Link Name provided to you by your clinical therapist prior to your session.
Step 3: Test your connection.
Prior to your scheduled appointment:
- Test the microphone and webcam on your device of choice.
- Ensure the volume on your device is turned up to an appropriate level. Headphones or earbuds can make it easier to hear and add an extra level of privacy.
- If necessary, maximize your Wi-Fi connection by limiting the number of persons on the internet in your household at one time.
- Ensure your device is plugged in or charging.
Step 4: Prepare your meeting space.
Choose a quiet, private place where you can speak freely and listen carefully.
Many clients take calls from their bedroom, home offices, or elsewhere in their home or car if they have the privacy to do so. If a lack of privacy is a concern for you, please inform your clinical therapist who can assist you in creating a plan to address your concerns and maximize your comfort level.
Step 5: Begin your session.
When you log onto Zoom, you will be placed in a “waiting room”. Your clinical therapist will be notified and approve your request at which time your virtual therapy session will begin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is virtual therapy effective?
Research has shown that online therapy can be equally as effective as in-person treatment. The major component of effective therapy involves the relationship between the clinical therapist and the client. Our clinicians at TPSRC are trained professionals and have experience in creating a therapeutic environment and connection with clients through the online platform, whether it be video or telephone. The goals in therapy remain the same whether one is getting help in person or online. Therefore, if the client is willing to engage in virtual therapy, they will continue making therapeutic gains no matter the medium.
How do you establish a relationship with your therapist via virtual therapy?
Developing rapport with clients is a vital component of therapy, whether in-person or online. Our clinical therapists are skilled in establishing this important relationship and engage in a collaborative process to ensure the client’s comfort level throughout the entirety of the process.
How do you engage children in virtual therapy?
Individuals of all ages can participate in virtual therapy. For young children who may have difficulty remaining engaged for the 50-minute session, setting up a conducive environment is recommended. This may mean setting up an area that includes your child’s favourite toys, paper, and colouring materials. Your therapist can also utilize these toys or materials to engage your child in therapeutic activities. Through play therapy, your child can learn how to communicate with others, express their feelings, modify their behaviour, and develop problem-solving skills to resolve the issue(s) at hand.
What does virtual therapy look like?
Virtual therapy is a continuation of what each client has been working on in counselling. Through collaborative goal setting, your therapist will use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), an evidence-based practice, to address existing concerns. Using our virtual platform, we use both Screen Share and Whiteboard features to visually demonstrate key components of therapy and in doing so, create an interactive and engaging experience.
CBT can be used across demographics including children, adolescents, adults, couples, groups, and families. Therapy can include increasing emotional awareness and articulation, providing psychoeducation on presenting issues, developing coping strategies, and replacing negative thought patterns. Your therapist will utilize CBT exercises, provide direct support, and recommend homework assignments to continue the therapeutic process outside of session for optimal results.
Where should I set up to engage in virtual therapy?
Due to the nature of virtual therapy, it is possible that family members may be around during the time of session which can make individuals feel uncomfortable to share openly. This is completely understandable, but there are ways to overcome this issue that many of our clients have reported success with including:
- Find a separate room within your home.
- Sit in your backyard.
- Go to a nearby park.
- Sit in your car.
- Wear headphones.
- Book timings that work for you.
- Encourage others in the household to wear headphones, watch television, or listen to music during your session.
What happens if I get disconnected?
If your internet disconnects during session, your therapist will reach out to you directly either via restarting the Zoom link or through telephone. If connectivity issues continue to be a concern, our therapists can offer phone sessions to prevent lost time. Additionally, you can always contact the office directly at 416-531-0727.