In my last post, I gave you an overview of what to expect from your first counselling session, the initial consultation for psychological online counselling with me. Today I would like to give you a few more tips and ideas for the technical and organisational preparation ahead of your first counselling session.
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Organisational preparation for the first counselling session
One of the great advantages of online counselling is that you are at home and can make yourself comfortable. Have a glass of water, a cup of tea or coffee ready, as well as anything else that will help you feel comfortable, such as your favourite blanket over your legs, a nice picture next to your laptop, etc. However, if your cat or dog tends to react very strongly to your voice, I would recommend not having it in the room with you.
Note and pen
Have a pen and a piece of paper or notebook ready. You may also want to start a new therapy notebook, which you can use to take notes during and after the call, to do homework in and to document your own progress and findings.
I also recommend you keep some tissues handy – you never know, and unfortunately, I can’t pass them to you through the screen.
A moment of calm
Take a few minutes before the first session to prepare yourself for the consultation or just to breathe. One of the main disadvantages of online counselling is that there is no real natural transition between our conversation and your everyday life. So make sure to take a break before you go into the next meeting, or back to your partner and the kids in the living room.
Try to find a quiet and undisturbed space for the conversation and switch off all sources of interference (emails, browser, telephone etc.). This is usually easier to do on a laptop than on a mobile phone, which is why I would generally recommend communicating via computer. Please also make sure that nobody else is in the room during the video counselling sessions, unless this has been agreed in advance.
Depending on the medium you use and the room you are in, I usually also recommend the use of headphones. These usually improve the sound quality and make it easier to block out disturbing noises (street noise, barking dogs or playing/fighting children and partners in the next room). You can use regular headphones, as long as they have a microphone.
Technical preparation for the first counselling session
Test your internet speed before the counselling session. You can do this, for example, via websites such as Fast or Speedtest. Optimal speeds are in the 2-digit range (download and upload). If your speed is below 5 MB download and/or 1 MB upload, the connection will usually be quite blurred and the picture will often freeze. In this case, check whether you can use a different internet connection, including mobile data if necessary. A 90-minute call should consume about 1 GB of data volume (depending on the specific situation, between 500 MB and 1.5 GB, so it is best to plan for some buffer). If this is not possible, we can switch off the video and only use the audio. However, this would be a shame, especially in the first meeting, as a lot of information would be lost and we would not be able to get to know each other as well.
Download the video programme used well in advance of your first counselling call. I will send you a link before the appointment with instructions on how to install it (it has always worked very easily and quickly for everyone so far and is of course free of charge). You can use the programme on your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone as long as it has a camera and integrated microphone.
If you are talking to me on your mobile phone, try to position it in such a way that you can see me clearly and you don’t have to move it all the time. If you have to hold it in your hand, try to keep it as still as possible. It is also helpful if you put your laptop/mobile phone in a slightly elevated position, as this makes eye contact feel more natural and comes a little closer to a personal conversation.
It is best to test your video and audio settings in the programme, before the initial consultation. Also, check where you are sitting and how well you can be seen. A bright light/window behind you usually means that I won’t be able to see you very well.
The most common technical problem in the intake sessions are sound problems. Therefore, here a few troubleshooting tips: Check if your sound/mic is on. If you are using headphones, check if the connection works better without them. Sometimes plugging and unplugging the headphones works wonders. Restarting the programme can also sometimes be enough. If you can see me, but not hear me, you can also communicate with me via the chat function in the programme so that we can solve the problem together. Otherwise: simple sign language is also always a good solution in such situations.
If you feel a bit overwhelmed by the possible problems now: don’t worry, these rarely occur and I have gained a lot of experience in solving them over the past years. From sign language to your microphone rubbing against your clothes, to your thumb landing over the microphone of your mobile phone, or the charger that needs to be fetched quickly: we’ve had it all before and solved it in no time. Don’t worry, I’ve got you!
Photo by Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash