Preparing for counselling by video or instant messaging

To do distance therapy you need a private place where you would not normally be interrupted. You will need a desk top, laptop or smart phone.

Young man doing his psychotherapy session as he waits for his plane to return to Canada

Beth's online hours:
Monday through Thursday, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM and 7:15 PM to 9:15 PM. Other times are sometimes possible by special arrangement.
All appointments are made in
Eastern Standard Time.

How to make an appointment for online therapy


Read the application form (or the fillable application form) and make sure that you are eligible for the service and comfortable with the arrangements. (Some exceptions to the eligibility requirements may be possible for Northern Ontario residents, so feel free to ask.)

Then email Beth at her gmail account, beth.toronto. She will need to know what your schedule is like (for example, do you need an evening appointment? are there some days you're tied up?) in order to offer you an appointment. She will also tell you the current fees.

When you have accepted an appointment time, send the application form and the payment asap to nail down the time slot. Please note that in the case of a couple, each person needs a separate form. Download the fillable form to your computer, fill in, and attach to an email. Forms may be emailed to beth's gmail account, beth.toronto.

Download and install Vsee from the Vsee website, https://vsee.com/. The instructions are there.

Open Vsee and log in with your username and password. Click on ADD, Invite to Vsee. A window in your browser will open; type in beth (at) sympatico.ca, then click on Invite. When it's time for your appointment, open Vsee and call Beth's email. Vsee seems to be more robust than Skype, but in the event that it ceases to work, if the problem hasn't righted itself in 3 minutes, email or call Beth at 416-699-5515 to continue the session by phone until/unless it is possible to continue by Vsee. You might want to do a practice session with a friend. Depending on the configuration you have, you might need headphones to prevent feedback.

Payment needs to be received 24 hours before each session. Most people send an interac email cheque to Beth's email address. (Instructions can be found on your bank's website if you have signed up for internet banking.) If you need to send a cheque by mail, request the mailing address, which is not on the website. Payments are not normally refundable, but one or two postponements can be made if 24 hours notice is given.

For couple therapy: Joint sessions work well with a three-way connexion, for example, one partner might be on the family computer and the other might use a smart phone in another room. The other way is to get an external microphone; the microphone in the computer is only designed to pick up the speech of the person nearest to it.

How to improve call quality
Here is how you can minimize problems such as stutter and cutting out. Before starting your session, turn off all other programs. The most effective way to do this is to close and restart your computer or smart phone. You also need to ensure that nobody else in the household is going to be streaming or downloading using the same modem. It is usually OK if they check their email (unless a big attachment comes in) or do an internet search (unless a website starts playing a video). Also, reduce the picture size, to minimum if necessary. If the connection starts off bad, end the call and start over, as you will probably get a better pathway. For more technical information, see https://www.vyopta.com/blog/video-conferencing/fix-video-calls-yourself/

How to keep your online therapy private

Both therapists and clients have an obligation to take reasonable measures to safeguard each other's privacy as well as their own. Here is some information from IT professional Mike Mares about electronic security:

The security measures I am suggesting would be a good idea even if you decide not to go with online counselling. If you find this too technical, get some help from your neighbourhood friendly, trustworthy teenager; otherwise both Staples and Best Buy have technical support departments that deal with these issues.

Your computer should have all security patches and updates installed. You should also have anti-virus (eg., Kaspersky, Bitdefender, Macafee) and anti-malware (eg., Malwarebytes) software installed and up to date. A firewall (e.g., Windows firewall) should be enabled.

If you store any confidential data on your computer, such as online sessions or confidential emails, encryption software should be installed. (Some people use password protection instead of encryption; however password protection would not safeguard your data if your computer was stolen.) Bitlocker for Windows can be enabled on Enterprise or Ultimate versions of Windows 7. For Windows 10 you need the Pro, not the Home version, to enable Bitlocker. For Macs there is AppleFileVault 2. Otherwise use VeraCrypt, https://veracrypt.codeplex.com/. Note that TrueCrypt is no longer supported. If you store any of this confidential data on an external device (USB key/flash drive or hard drive) this device should also be encrypted.

A wired Ethernet connection is preferred to wireless as it is usually more reliable. You can test bandwith with www.speedtest.net.

Needless to say, your therapist should have all this protection too. Beth does. If you're considering another therapist, it's a good idea to ask.