Key Takeaways

  • Your home office should be a private space with a strong internet connection and a HIPAA-compliant video platform.
  • Not sharing an office with colleagues can feel isolating at times, so consider scheduling regular check-ins with peers or attending virtual conferences.
  • Working from home offers flexibility, but it’s important to set healthy boundaries and practice self-care. With the proper setup and support, working from home can be a rewarding experience for both therapists and clients.
For therapists who are used to meeting with clients in person, it can be tough to imagine connecting via a screen from home. You may have concerns like:
  • Will my clients respond to virtual care?
  • Will I like seeing clients over the computer?
  • How will this impact my work-life balance?
  • Can I still make a real difference?
While those are certainly valid questions, research shows both personal and professional benefits to working from home. Working remotely has been linked to improved job satisfaction, work-life balance, and productivity.  And clinically, we know that telehealth and online therapy are equally effective for treating depression and anxiety disorders. Virtual care is considered to be a flexible option by clients and mental health professionals alike.

1. Create a workspace that ensures client privacy

Privacy is an important part of the American Psychological Association’s code of ethics. For a therapist, privacy means creating a safe place for your client to share and a promise of confidentiality. Privacy is both a set of technical requirements and a feeling you create for your clients — and it should be a constant regardless of physical location or care modality. Here are a few tips to help ensure that your workspace and tools honor client privacy.

Use a HIPAA-compliant video platform

There are countless video chat applications on the market, but not all of them are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), specifically with HIPAA’s Security Rule and Privacy Rule Whether you’re already seeing clients virtually or you’re preparing to bring your practice online, make sure that you’re using a HIPAA-compliant program when connecting with clients. Examples include Zoom for Healthcare, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, and Doxy.me.

Prioritize privacy in your workspace design

There’s a clear sense of privacy when meeting with a client in an office setting. The office door is closed, phones are turned off, and there’s little risk of anything interrupting the session. Although you won’t be in the same room as a client, it’s important to create that same sense of privacy when working from home.  Not sure where to get started? 
  • Be mindful of your camera placement. For example, avoid having an open door behind you or being in a communal room when other people are home.
  • Avoid interruptions. Place a “do not disturb” sign on your door during sessions to prevent interruptions from people you live with. 
  • Plan ahead. Ensure that you have everything you need prior to the appointment to avoid leaving the room during a session. That can mean making sure that your chargers and headphones are always nearby.

Create a sound barrier 

Kids, pets, neighbors, deliveries — working from home can be noisy! If you think your home office space might be a distraction for you or your clients, consider using a sound machine. Noise-canceling headphones are another great option to help you stay focused and ensure client privacy.  

2. Get comfortable with technology 

If you’re new to providing therapy from home, you may have a slight learning curve on getting your tech all set up. Luckily, telehealth technology is more approachable than you might think. 

Internet connection

The first thing to consider is your internet connection. One of the biggest fears of any telehealth provider is that your service might cut out during a crucial moment with a client.  To help prevent connectivity issues, consider using an Ethernet connection instead of WiFi. An Ethernet connection can be quicker and more reliable.

Software and equipment 

Building a virtual practice doesn’t require much software, but there are best practices to more effectively use technology to deliver care. One tip is to use two monitors; one can be used to maintain eye contact and connection with your client, while the other can be designed for note-taking and admin work.  Here are some other tips to help ensure that you’re comfortable with the technology prior to meeting with clients:
  • Make sure that your software is up to date
  • Check your audio connection 
  • Test your internet connectivity between sessions

3. Stay connected with colleagues

Working from home can feel isolating at times, especially for therapists and other people in helping professions. Although it’s nice to avoid the morning commute or having to pack a lunch, you may miss the camaraderie of your colleagues. That said, there are great ways to build a sense of community and stay connected with your peers when working from home.

Engage in case consultations

Peer consultations are an opportunity to discuss challenging cases, identify potential biases, seek professional advice, and prevent burnout. They’re also a chance to troubleshoot tech issues and swap advice on topics such as how to build rapport with clients via teletherapy.

Check in with your peers

You may be speaking with clients all day, but it’s not the same as connecting with your peers. Create a calendar reminder to check in with colleagues once a month, or maybe even set up a few standing dates with folks in your network.

Attend virtual events and conferences

Conferences are a great opportunity to make professional connections, increase your professional knowledge, and discover new tools to support clients.

4. Create routines that support self-care

A leading benefit of working from home is increased flexibility. Without a daily commute, there’s more time in the day for self-care moments, like walking the dog or making a smoothie.

Create a self-care routine

No one knows more about the importance of self-care than mental health professionals. In order to protect your well-being and avoid burnout, create a wellness plan that prioritizes sleep, physical activity, and a balanced diet. 

Set boundaries 

You may have seen headlines commenting that remote workers tend to log longer days than their office-based peers. There may be some truth to that, which is exactly why boundaries are so important.  Establish a routine with set times for breakfast, lunch, and breaks to support your mental and physical health while caring for your clients. This includes set times to start and end your day so that you don’t find yourself popping into your home office before bed or on the weekends. 

Work from home with Rula

Office — check. Technology — check. If the only thing holding you back from working from home is the sense of community, we’re here to help. Rula is a behavioral health organization that supports therapists as they build their therapy practice from home. We understand the desire for both autonomy and community, and our telehealth platform offers the flexibility and freedom to work from home while still having access to a community of fellow mental health providers. Therapists in the Rula network are invited to participate in bi-weekly case consultations with our clinical team. They also have access to our private online therapist community to connect with peers. Plus, our dedicated support team is available to help with any technology issues along the way. Ready to start building a flexible private practice from the comfort of your home? Click here to learn more about working with Rula.

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