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  • Fe Robinson

Creating a therapeutic space for your online therapy sessions

I’ve made a few changes in my office lately, increasing my level of physical comfort when I am working. I’m noticing a significant difference in how I experience online sessions, and it’s made me curious about the importance of the physical environment for clients having therapy online. Traditionally therapists have had quite some control over the therapy experience, choosing sitting, determining lighting, providing water and tissues (or not) etc etc. Working online, all of this falls away, and the client creates the setting for themselves.


What might not be apparent is how much this matters. Different spaces have different meanings to us, for example we generally have a different relationship to our bedroom than that we have with our living room. We don’t usually choose to talk to people from the bathroom, or if we do they are people we are closely intimate with.


When therapy is online, we are inviting our therapist into the space we are sat in, and we determine what they see, and also determine our own comfort physically and psychologically through our positioning. It’s well worth giving this some thought up front.


To really relax into therapy ask yourself where is the most comfortable place you can sit physically? Is there somewhere where your whole body can be supported so that you can sit back and really relax into the chair?


Consider the different rooms in your house (if you are at home). Which has the most conducive vibe for a therapeutic conversation? You will want privacy and not to be over-heard, but also to be in a space where within yourself you feel comfortable to reveal inner thoughts and feelings and to speak openly.


What do you need around you so that you feel contained? There are obvious things like tissues and something to drink, but also are there comforting things? A blanket? Your pet? Do you like to sit with your back to a wall, or open to the room? What position feels most safe and comfortable to you?


How physically comfortable are you with the screen? It’s important to feel you can look away and you can stretch and move as you need to. If you were physically in the room you and your therapist wouldn’t be staring at each other, and so you can manage that intensity when working online too. You might think about how close or distant you are to the screen to give a good view of more than just your head, and also to manage how close you feel to the therapist and your level of comfort with the closeness or distance. We would not sit closely face to face in the room, and so it is OK to manage this as you need to online as well.


You may also want to think about practical things like lighting, and your backdrop, as you would for any online appointment. It can be useful to get curious about what is communicated. Are you in the dark or shade and feeling that way inside too? Do you show or obscure your background, and why, what does that mean for you? The wonderful thing about therapy is that whatever is arising is all information, with meaning, and can be used to discover and explore your inner experience.


My new chair has been a useful reminder to connect with clients around some of these themes, and to widen awareness of what I and they are communicating. I hope this provokes some useful reflections for you too.




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