COVID-19 Online Therapy Couples Sessions

Couples In Step made the decision to move all couples sessions online on Monday, March 16, 2020.

Technical Requirements for Online Therapy

  • You need an internet connection with fast bandwidth, including a good upload speed.

  • A laptop or computer with video capability is preferred over a mobile device or tablet.  If you are using a mobile device or tablet please have it propped up in stable location (no holding your device).

  • You’ll join the video call either through the Couples In Step client portal or via an email with an invite to join the video conference. Your therapist will give you directions prior to your first session. If you and your therapist use the zoom platform you’ll need a password. The password is in the email invite. Couples In Step sessions will not be zoombombed. 

  • Your therapist will review a consent for online video therapy with you the first time you have an on-line session.

  • It is helpful to have 2 devices available, even if you use only 1, because having the other device on standby to use if the one device isn’t working perfectly has come in handy before.

  • Have your cell phone nearby (both of you) so that your therapist can call you to trouble shoot (reschedule, complete session by phone, move to another video conference platform) if there is a technological glitch. During this covid-19 video therapy time there are greater bandwidth challenges than previously (though Irene has been pleasantly surprised how well online connectivity is working given the surge in businesses going online). This is especially the case for sessions between 7-10 pm. So do have your cell phone near–just in case.

  • An ethernet cable that connects your computer or laptop directly to your modem often enhances quality of the call.

  • To use this medium you need to have tolerance for the occasional technological blip. While the technology is much more reliable than it was even a few short years ago, there is the occasional poor connection. Often stopping and starting again makes for a better connection the second time.

Things You Should Know About Online Therapy

  • The first covid-19 video therapy session may be a bit rocky as you get used to the medium. Occasionally video counselling is not a good medium and that will become clear after the first two or three sessions.

  • Laptop, desktop, or tablet is preferred over a mobile phone. Please have your device on a counter in front of you, or on a pile of books, so that the screen is level with your faces (ie., not on your lap). This is to help with eye contact between you and your therapist.

  • Ideally you’ll sit side-by-side using one screen. However if COVID-19, or the tension in your relationship, means it’ll be challenging to sit side-by-side then feel free to use different devices in different rooms/locations.
  • When you sit side-by-side please do not sit so that one of you sits forward of the other. This really throws the balance off.

  • You should sit in a well lit area, facing a light source, i.e, not with your back to a window.

  • Sometimes your therapist may start video counselling sessions with a small grounding exercise. This is to replace the transitional car ride to the therapist office.

  • Your therapist may from time to time ask you to very specifically speak about the mood in the room, or what you sense coming from your partner, or what the look on your partner’s face is, or what your partner’s body language is conveying, etc. This extra input is not only helpful to your therapist who is not in the room with you, it is also very helpful to each of you as you learn about the impact you are having on each other.

  • The goal of EFT is to help couples move into their soft, vulnerable emotions. That often means that our voices naturally become slower and softer. When your therapist asks you to turn to each other and share with each other, your words may be harder for your therapist to hear. Often that is OK, because your therapist will be looking at your bodies for cues (voice quality, posture, your faces) to help monitor your interaction. AND… your therapist  will ask you to share what happened and what was said (even more than then in face-to-face sessions).

  • One of the couples I worked with was having trouble with this medium. Then they began to regularly take ½ hour before and after the session with me to prepare and debrief. The video conferencing sessions became more productive. When this same couple also added in regular time between sessions to read the book Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love together, the sessions became even more helpful to them. I met with them a long time this way; they read many sections of Hold Me Tight  more than once!

Distractions to Online Therapy

Please do what you can to minimize interruptions such as phone calls, kids playing in the same room, etc. Though, if you have children, they are likely to be curious, and it is perfectly fine  if you have the children meet the therapist and just chat a bit. Irene has observed over the course of many video-therapy sessions that giving children permission to see who you are talking to helps them interrupt you less.

If you wish to try meeting without getting a child care provider in to help, that is fine. After a session or 2, we’ll know better if a child care person is necessary for our sessions to be more productive.

Online Therapy