8 Tips for Youth in the Era of Online Counselling During COVID

Youth may not be as comfortable with structured online appointments as their parents who are more experienced with Zoom work meetings. Online appointments can feel more direct and younger clients can feel intimidated, put on the spot, self-conscious, distracted, and/or nervous about meeting a professional online for the first time, which can lead to a less than inspiring first appointment. Here are some tips to help younger people adjust to online appointments.

  1. Request a free consultation before you book an appointment to get a sense of the therapist’s approach, what steps are involved in online appointments, and to prepare yourself for what to expect. It can help to have a parent guide the consultation while their teen listens and adds any questions they may have.
  2. Know that nervousness is very normal. It can take some time to get used to these kinds of meetings and for you and your therapist to get to know each other and find a rhythm. Think of it in terms of a learning process in which you’re experimenting and learning what does and doesn’t fit for you. Give it a few tries.
  3. Let your therapist know how you’re feeling. It’s important to provide feedback to make the most of your therapy and let your therapist know how to best support you.
  4. Let your therapist lead if you’re feeling on the spot. You’re not expected to always know what to say or have the right answer. Online meetings can sometimes feel more intensive or fast-paced, like we should always be talking, which can cause us to forget that a counselling session can be a time for reflection and brainstorming. You’re welcome to take time to think about things during the appointment. Sometimes it helps to break the ice by simply saying you need a moment to think something over.
  5. If things feel rushed, it could also be a good opportunity to explore a mindfulness breathing exercise together with your therapist to slow things down. (It’s ok to go off-camera for these exercises if that’s more comfortable.)
  6. Feel free to request telephone session or turn your camera off if seeing yourself on video –or being seen– is too distracting or uncomfortable. This might be a way to “warm up” to future video appointments.
  7. Consider having some fidget toys and adult colouring nearby to use at the time of your appointment. Get comfortable! Cozy up with a cup of tea and a blanket. Sit comfortably. Allow yourself to fidget if you need to. These strategies can help deflect nervous energy and replicate some of the experience you’d have if you were meeting with your therapist in-person.
  8. Know that your therapist is genuinely interested in connecting with you and getting to know what fits best for you. They have your best interests at heart.