Best Practices for Online Client Sessions
While you may be familiar with serving clients with live sessions and telephone sessions, there are considerations that are unique to video sessions. To make sure your client has a good experience, review and implement these best practices.
Before Offering Video Sessions
“Stage” your environment to make it look as professional as possible. Ask yourself, “If this were my doctors office, and I was going there for a consultation, would I be comfortable in their professionalism based on what I see?” Change anything in your office that is visible to an online client that doesn’t meet the “doctor’s office” standard.
Before your first online session, asses what your client will see through your video camera when doing a session with you. Software like Zoom, Skype and Photobooth allows you to see what the client will see. Make sure that you look at your background and setting the way a client would. No laundry, personal photos, intrusive artwork, or similar distractions should be visible. Those charming photos of your 5 year old grand children on your desk that you’re so proud to share? Maybe your client’s issue is that they lost their 5 year old, and your photos trigger them. What’s nice to you isn’t necessarily what works for the client. Keep your background neutral.
Ensure your face is well-lit. Do you need to add more lighting? If you’re testing in daylight, what will the light levels be like for sessions you’re conducting after dusk? Consider using a lightweight portable rechargeable LED light kit like this one for low-light situations.
Use a High Definition video camera and HD microphone. This USB version from Logitech is one of the most highly-rated devices and costs under $100. Test your setup thoroughly before your first session, and at the start of each session.
Make sure your volume controls are set correctly so that clients can see and hear you. The client may have technical difficulties, and if you’ve tested your setup in advance you’ll know you are not the source of the problem and you can help them. But if you don’t know which of you is causing the problem, the session begins with frustration for the client. Settings can change from one day to the next, overridden by other apps you use, so check your levels at the start of each work day.
Make sure you have a high-speed internet connection. Buy the highest-bandwidth package your service provider offers. Be prepared for connectivity issues – flickering video, sound dropping. What is your refund policy for a tech failure? Can you offer sessions that you’ll be doing from a hotel room or another remote location?
Make sure the client has the appropriate software. Make sure it’s up-to-date and you both have the latest version to minimize incompatibility issues. Schedule a tech test before the actual session if necessary. If you’re using Client Connection, this is handled for you. If you’re using another platform, verify that it works before getting into the session.
Minimize distractions such as alerts, the phone ringing, children, traffic, and pets. You may love your dog, and enjoy seeing him lying in the corner of your office. But your client may have been bitten by a dog. Don’t assume that things that have a positive emotional resonance for you have the same for your client.
Double-check time zones.
During Video Sessions
Look at the camera, not the video feedback screen on your computer. If possible, drag the video feedback screen close to the camera.
If you’re using Zoom or Skype, switch to audio-only mode if video is consuming all available bandwidth.
Record sessions if the client wishes to replay them later.
Use a headset to avoid neck and arm fatigue and to allow yourself to tap along.
Use your intuition, but check it against the client’s reality picture.
Near the end of the session, signal the client that time is almost up in a gentle way. One option is to use statements like “As we’re nearing the end of our time together, ….”
Use the Sneaking Away technique if the client’s SUD scores are still high.