How to Prepare Your Clients for Their First Telehealth Session
Even before the onset of the global pandemic earlier this year, we saw a rise in the number of people looking for new treatment options. With the dawn of COVID-19, demand increased even further as people began searching for safe ways to process and manage their feelings. Social distancing rules have forced therapists to adapt quickly and venture into this new world of Teletherapy.
Although Telehealth may not be a new concept to you, it’s essential to keep in mind that it may be a very different approach for many clients. While many of them have probably at least heard of Telehealth by now, their Teletherapy session with you might be their first real experience participating in an online appointment.
All too often, with unfamiliarity comes nervousness. You want to ensure your client’s nerves are at ease, so they feel comfortable opening up and speaking with you freely during their online session just as they would during an in-office appointment.
In this blog post, we will walk you through the top 4 steps every therapist should take before their client’s first Teletherapy appointment to help ensure their first experience goes as smoothly as possible.
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1. Talk About Confidentiality and Consent
Confidentiality is a cornerstone and foundation of a positive therapeutic experience for your clients. Sadly, when it comes to privacy in Teletherapy, many people feel much more uncertain about their online session’s security than they would in traditional in-person therapy.
Help ease their mind by laying all your cards on the table from the get-go. Begin each session by explaining to your client that even though your session’s physical location has changed, the fundamental elements and confidentiality guidelines you follow have not. Ensure they understand that you are in a private area and taking all the necessary steps to provide them with the safest online therapy space.
Discuss with your client what confidentiality looks like and what a breach of privacy is. Communicating these expectations is essential and can help ease your client’s nerves before the session begins.
Before your first session begins, be sure you have thoroughly researched and followed your state’s policy regarding client consent. Several states do require therapists to obtain some sort of client consent, informing them of the possible risks, benefits, and alternatives to Telehealth. It’s crucial – for both yourself and your clients – that you’ve provided them with all of the necessary resources and collected any required paperwork from them before getting started.
2. Add a ‘Telehealth FAQs’ Page to Your Website
An FAQ (or Frequently Asked Questions) page allows clients to find all their answers in one convenient location. This page can serve as a guide book to all of your new and prospective Teletherapy clients. You can direct your new clients to this page to answer some common questions or provide insight on ideas that may be challenging to understand. You can answer questions regarding payment, insurance, consent, privacy, and technology. This web page is an excellent ‘tangible’ resource you can give your clients to prepare and answer any questions before their first session.
To make your FAQ page easy to locate on your website, we suggest including it within your navigation menu – generally listed under a ‘Getting Started’ or ‘Resources’ menu heading – and within the content of any web page where you’ve mentioned that you provide Telehealth.
As you continue to receive new questions and become more familiar with conducting Teletherapy sessions, you’ll want to update this page to reflect your current knowledge. You can always add new questions, place new links, or explain ideas further on the page. Get this new page added to your site sooner rather than later. It’s better to continually improve the page rather than not have it at all!
If you already are a Brighter Vision client, adding a FAQ page to your website couldn’t be more simple. All you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org with the title and content for your new page, and the folks on our wonderful Support Team will take care of getting it added!
If you are not a Brighter Vision client, you can contact your website administrator or developer for assistance, or you can schedule a time with a member of our team to learn how a new Brighter Vision website can help you grow your practice like never before.
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3. Help Your Client Get Set Up Beforehand
Before your session, provide your client with information about what to expect before, during, and after their Telehealth session.
At the very least, you’ll definitely want to let them know before your meeting time which platform you will be using to conduct your online sessions and advise them to log in 5-10 minutes ahead of time to familiarize themselves with how to use them the software throughout their appointment.
Both you and your client must set up in a distraction-free environment. So, communicate with your client before their first session to make them aware of everything they can do to get the most out of their session:
- Encourage them to find a location that is private and quiet.
- Advise that they sit somewhere comfortable so they can focus on the session.
- Suggest that they turn off (or silence) anything other devices that may cause distractions such as cell phones, televisions, and tablets.
- If they have families or roommates in the house, they may want to hang a sign on the door, asking everyone to refrain from entering the room until they are finished.
- If they seem as though they’re getting distracted by seeing themselves on camera, explain how they can hide their face during the session or simply tell them they can use a post-it note to cover this part of their screen.
Making clients aware of the common obstacles beforehand gives them plenty of time to prepare and find the perfect place to conduct their session.
4. Discuss Possible Technological Disruptions
Another way to ensure a positive experience is through high-quality video resolution and sound to make this virtual one feel as close as possible to a face-to-face session.
It is very distracting when a video starts looking blurry, or the sound becomes muffled, and things like this can quickly disrupt the entire session.
So, before your session begins, ask your client to make sure they are using a computer with:
- a decent webcam
- a headset or speakers
- a microphone
- a reliable internet connection
There may still be glitches with a stable internet connection – whether it’s a screen freezing or a lag in sound. These issues can be very frustrating on both ends, which means it’s crucial to discuss this with your client before, so they do not feel overwhelmed or frustrated. While most of the time, your video platform might work very well, you should still talk about what to do if a possible disruption does arise, and maybe you can work out a back-up plan with clients in case you do experience technical difficulties.
Try not to get too discouraged if a video session isn’t perfect, you can offer phone calls or other means of communicating as a back-up when the online technology isn’t working. To avoid technical difficulties, consider walking your patients through a practice run.
COVID-19 has pushed us from physical sessions to online sessions in a remarkably fast way. It’s essential to start thinking about how you operate your private practice online to ease the transition for your clients to make their experience as comfortable as possible.
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