We’ve previously talked about designing and decorating your therapy office as an element of your professional care; studies have shown patients respond to the visual atmosphere of the therapy space*. The recent, widespread shift to telehealth, however, has left many behavioral health practitioners wondering how they can apply these same principles of office design to their virtual therapeutic sessions.
As a behavioral healthcare provider, it is important to create an environment conducive to the care you provide, supporting your patient wherever they may be. Because we understand this can be especially challenging in a virtual situation, the Valant team has put together a few ideas to help you create an effective therapeutic environment for your virtual behavioral health practice.
Office decoration is important, but when you are taking virtual therapy appointments, you want to start by making sure your face is well lit.
When you are on a video call, it’s important to have good lighting. Studies have shown that soft lighting promotes open discussions with clients, leading to more elaborative and forthcoming self-disclosure. While natural lighting is usually the most flattering, it may not always be a viable option depending on the location of your office or the time of day. Having another light source, like a ring light, will ensure you are always well lit; ring lights are easy to find and can cost anywhere from $30–$70.
As we highlighted in our previous post, “Decorating your Therapy Office”, dark colors tend to inspire negative emotions while light colors can inspire positive emotions. (note: the color white has been known to create stress in patients with heightened environmental sensitivity.)
While there is a lot of debate around the psychology of color — especially as the perception of color can be entirely subjective — you may want to consider how certain colors could have an impact on your clients, even through a web camera. Bright and bold colors can be energizing and great for children, while soft and subdued colors, can have a more calming effect.
Take note of the colors surrounding you during a virtual therapy session, and consider their effect on your patients each day.
What color is the wall behind you? Do you have plants in your background? What color shirt are you wearing? Even via a screen, you can convey a lot with the colors you choose to be surrounded by.
Avoid Photo/Video Backgrounds
Even putting up a soothing image or video to use as a background can be more of a distraction than it is worth. Photo backgrounds can be fun, but if you move around or don’t have a solid green background behind you (or “green screen”), you can appear choppy and disappear from the screen off and on.
Keep Screen Size in Mind
The screen size your patient is talking to you on will impact the amount of screen they will see. For example, if they are calling from a smartphone and holding the phone vertically, they will see less of the screen than if they were calling in from a laptop. This is why you want to make sure you start with lighting your face, then working out to the rest of your surroundings.
Bring Your Physical Practice to Your Patient
With virtual therapy sessions, practitioners have limited control on their patients’ physical surroundings. This, in turn, reduces the practitioner’s and patient’s ability to benefit from a thoughtful, well-designed therapeutic environment. While you can’t directly change the space your patient chooses for their session, you can steer them in the right direction with recommendations and gifts.
An idea for some of your patients may be to mail them a therapy package to use during your sessions. This can include candles, essential oils, a plant, or even a mini noise machine — anything your patients had become accustomed to when they had in-person sessions with you. Plants especially have been shown to reduce stress levels; sending a little plant to your patient is a nice gesture and will carry its effects long after your session has ended. Even if you have never seen a patient in person, sending a gift, or even just a list of suggestions to help them create their own therapy space for your sessions can be incredibly valuable.
Who is Valant?
Valant’s EHR for behavioral health offers tools for providers to streamline documentation, increase efficiency, and enhance the productivity of their practice or agency.
The fully integrated suite includes secure patient records, documentation, scheduling, practice management, telehealth and a patient portal. Because Valant focuses exclusively on behavioral health, users don’t have to navigate through billing codes and documentation templates made for other specialties.
How can we help?
Interested in learning more about Valant’s Behavioral Health EHR Software? Perhaps you have questions about the platform. Or maybe you’re already familiar with Valant and just want to see what’s new. We are here to help and would love to talk with you.
*Source: Pearson, M., & Wilson, H. (2012). Soothing spaces and healing places: Is there an ideal counseling room design? Psychotherapy in Australia, 18(3), 46 – 53.