Ever since COVID-19 lockdowns started, telehealth and teletherapy have become the new normal for many people, which has metaphorically brought therapists into our own homes. Although many are now experiencing the benefits of online therapy for the first time,, they may wonder if there’s potentially a new issue: privacy.
Now, we’re not talking about privacy regarding what you tell your therapist. That will always be confidential, whether you’re telling them in person or online. We’re talking about roommates, housemates, and family members overhearing your intimate details.
I’d say most of the time, most of us don’t want anyone to know what we’re talking about in therapy. After all, therapy is our safe space to talk about literally whatever we want with no judgment. Plus, sometimes, we want to talk about the people we live with! It’s totally reasonable to be worried about your roommates listening in on your virtual therapy sessions where you complain about them eavesdropping. While switching to virtual therapy may require a few adjustments, in the COVID-era, it’s definitely worth it. Once you’re comfortable with the new mode of therapy, you’ll reap the same benefits as you would in person.
How to Maintain Privacy in Virtual Therapy
Whether you’ve been using teletherapy for years or you’re brand new to it, here are some tips for maintaining some privacy during your sessions.
At the very minimum, you can minimize what your roommate hears from your therapist by using headphones instead of your phone or speakers. This is a super easy way to gain some privacy on at least one side of the conversation.
Go for a walk
Walk and talk therapy is very much “a thing,” so who says it can’t be incorporated into virtual therapy? Just throw on your headphones and you’re good to go. Plus, if you’re working from home and sitting at a desk all day, it’s great to get up, stretch your legs, and get a change of scenery. This will benefit your mental health, too. Just make sure to be aware of your surroundings while you’re on the call or video so you don’t walk into any poles or fall down a man-hole. Admittedly, this technique is likely best for audio-only sessions.
Sit in your car
If you have a car, you can turn it into your makeshift therapy office while it’s parked (we definitely don’t recommend therapy while driving, since your full attention should definitely be on the road). Cars are pretty soundproof, so if you’re sitting in your car in your driveway, parking garage, or on the street you can rest assured that your housemates or family members won’t hear you on the call. As long as you’ve got service, you can have your call or video appointment in peace.
Use text therapy for juicy bits
If you’ve got some truly ~juicy~ bits that you really don’t want to risk roommates, family members, or passerby hearing, utilize the texting option. On the Talkspace app and website, you always have the option to text your therapist. Before your session, you can fill your therapist in on what you are too nervous to say out loud. If you want to get really creative/act like a spy, you can come up with codewords or aliases for things and people you’ll be talking about out loud.
Get a white noise machine
If you’ve ever been to an in-person therapy office that has a waiting room, you might’ve noticed the therapist has a white noise machine outside of their door. This helps to drown out or mask whatever conversation is going on behind that closed door, so the people in the waiting room don’t hear. You can use this same principle at home. You can find relatively inexpensive machines for sale, and then just get it up and running outside the door of the room you’re talking in.
Ask your roommates for space
Therapy is nothing to be embarrassed about, and a lot of people are in therapy these days. Your roommates or family members might already know that you see a therapist, in which case it might be a little easier to ask them for space and privacy when it’s time for a session. If they don’t know, you can either tell them or just let them know you have an important call or meeting (which, really, you aren’t lying).
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Simply tell them that you need some privacy for therapy and see what they offer. They might tell you they’ll go walk the dog during the time, or get some other errand done so they can be out of the house/apartment for you to have some space.
- Ask them if they can listen to music or a show during your session wearing headphones — bonus points if they have noise-canceling ones!
- See if they will coordinate going out with the time that you have therapy. For example, if they go on daily runs or another type of workout, ask them if it’s possible if they can go at the time you have therapy.
- You can also ask your therapist to switch your session to a time when you know you’ll have the place to yourself. Most therapists are pretty accommodating of client’s schedules.
It’s important to let the people you live with know you’re grateful for their help and willingness to give you privacy. Don’t forget to thank them! You really aren’t asking for a whole lot here, but let them know that you’re happy to reciprocate their generosity. Let them know that whenever they need privacy — whether it’s for a phone call, booty call, or therapy — that you’re willing to give them that privacy in return.
It definitely is possible to have some private alone time when living with other people, you just might have to get creative with it. Therapy shouldn’t have to be something that you stress over — it should be helping to alleviate your stress — so if getting the privacy you need can help you feel less anxious about your sessions, that’s great! Now, go forth and pour your heart out to your therapist in peace.