As an online therapist, I have put a lot of time and energy into finding the right tools. Our bodies did not develop to sit in chairs all day. They work best when they move and walk. But lots of people aren’t familiar with the options for how to do a computer job and take care of their bodies. With the pandemic, more people have moved to work from home. And are suddenly needing to figure out a home office set up. Lots of counselors have suddenly transitioned to fully online, so I see lots of questions about what equipment people use. I decided I should share more information about my set up. Which might give you some ideas or a place to start.
Chairs for an online therapist
In my office, I had a really comfy couch and rocking chairs. So I had to figure out how to mimic this with my online set up. Now, I rotate 3 chairs- one is a standard office chair that I sometimes put cushions on. One is the UPLIFT motion stool. And one is a 2xhome adjustable rolling saddle stool with backrest.
The standard chair allows me to sit cross-legged. The motion stool is a wobble stool and allows for easy wiggling. I’ve figured out how to keep my head generally still so it’s not so disruptive during video chat, while moving my butt and legs around. The saddle stool has a lot of postural benefits that decreases back pain by maintaining the natural curve of your back. And it mimics a standing position, so fewer issues with circulation in my legs. When standing, I utilize the UPLIFT Bamboo Motion-X Board. Which allows me to fidget my legs without moving my upper body a lot.
The seat I have been most excited about is an exercise bike that is specifically designed by UPLIFT to be utilized with their standing desks and is super quiet. This has been a hotly contested item amongst therapists. Some say it’s horribly unprofessional to use it during sessions while others say we should do whatever we have to in order to take care of ourselves so we can take good care of our clients.
I rarely use this one during sessions. And typically peddle quite slowly so my upper body isn’t waving side to side. It’s mostly just to get a bit of extra movement so I’m not antsy so I can pay better attention to my clients. In an ideal happy world, I’d be able to get plenty of movement in between sessions. But my need for movement varies depending on the day. It can also help the body process any fight or flight responses that might arise in the therapist during sessions.
Desk set up for an online therapist
To go with all my chairs, I got a commercial sit-stand desk from UPLIFT. Which is one of the most stable sit-stand desks out there. Sit-stand desks tend to wobble forward and back because of the lifting mechanism. I had a less expensive desk. But the webcam bounced every time I typed, so I switched to UPLIFT and it’s great. It’s electric and has memorized levels, so it’s easy to change heights during a session or in between sessions.
Keyboard tray and mouse
I got the ultra-thin keyboard tray. Which allows for a left-handed mouse placement (or right, for the rest of you) and tilting of the keyboard to prevent wrist pain. I utilize an Evoluent left-handed vertical mouse, which also helps prevent wrist pain. Only you lefties know how exciting it is to get to use a left-handed mouse easily.
The keyboard tray height easily adjusts, which helps to ensure proper angle of my elbows while typing. I also got the Range Monitor arms. Which allow me to easily move my monitors up and down, forward and back, left and right. In order to ensure the proper viewing height and placement of my monitors. The monitor arms combined with the keyboard tray allows a correct distance from my keyboard to the fronts and tops of my screens. This also allows more surface space to work or keep stuff on the desk. Which my cat has taken as a personal invitation to turn the surface into his personal lounging space.
Monitors and webcam
I utilize my laptop and a secondary monitor. On the secondary monitor, I have a Logitech C920 webcam with a MoimTech privacy cover. On the monitor, I have my video chat with the client toward the top of the screen (so it’s closest to the webcam). Directly below that I keep Word open so I can type my note during the session. I keep this monitor fairly centered on the desk. Off to the left on the laptop, I have my electronic health record open so I can schedule appointments, see past notes, update treatment plans, or review the client’s billing for them during the session. This does mean clients may see me glance at the other screen.
I have 3M Black Privacy Filters on both screens. I utilize the anti-glare matte side. They reduce 35% of blue light from my screens. This has helped reduce my eye strain and headaches. The privacy aspect also helps improve the confidentiality of my sessions. Because the screen is only visible directly and blacks out at a 60-degree viewing angle.
Headphones for privacy as an online therapist
I utilize Jabra Elite 85h headphones. I appreciate that they are wireless and improve the confidentiality of my sessions. Because there’s no chance my partner can overhear my clients. They have 8 microphones built into the ear cups. Which keeps the distance from the microphone constant regardless of where I move. The ear cups ensure that there isn’t pressure on my ears and the headband is padded and easily adjustable. The battery is long-lasting.
When I first started using them I hated them because they amplify the white noise of my air cleaner. But I eventually found the setting called Sidetone. Which allows you to hear your own voice when on a call, such as video chat. I’m sure for some folks it’s great if they want to be able to hear what’s going on around them. I prefer to keep this off because it helps me be less distracted by other noises in my home. To turn it off- in settings, headset settings, call experience, sidetone.
When my video is scripted, I use the Padcaster Parrot Teleprompter. Which is designed to attach to a camera lens, but I prop it up on a box in front of my webcam on a SIGSIT webcam stand. It’s basically a small mirrored box that you place your cell phone in with an app running on it.
For videos, I use an Audio-Technica ATR2100X-USB microphone instead of my headphones. I prefer not to use this during sessions. But that’s mostly to decrease the chance of feedback and increase privacy. I chose this one because some people said it had a warmer sound than the Blue Yeti mics.
I have a Neewer ring light, which is one of the ones that’s consistently recommended by other therapists, but it’s hard on my eyes. So I use natural lighting from the window as much as possible or lamps off to the side of my desk for evening sessions.
Desktop Stuff for an online therapist
On the desktop- I keep a notepad to write down any to do list items that I think of during the session that I want to make sure I don’t forget about later. I also tend to keep my work to do list or things like a list of potential group members. Fidget toys that I use during sessions. I keep hand lotion so the dryness of my hands doesn’t distract me during sessions. I keep ibuprofen so I’m not distracted by headaches in case one creeps up.
A drink, usually Cherry Coke, so I’m not distracted by being thirsty. I keep snacks in case I’m in a rush between sessions and am hungry. I keep a question game in case somebody doesn’t know what they want to talk about. A pendulum in case I need to make a decision about something, such as whether to include something in a blog post. My cell phone in case I need to text a client or check a text from a client. I like to have a lot of things easily handy.
I hope that this information decreases some of your stress as you find ways to take care of your body while working on the computer for extended periods of time.
Interested in starting online counseling with me? Head here to learn more.
Tia Young, M.A., LPC, has worked in the mental health field for over 20 years. Tia is passionate about somatic therapy, complex PTSD treatment, developmental trauma therapy, counseling for depression, and anxiety counseling.
Tia has started drinking healthy shakes as recommended by her functional medicine doctor, and pours chocolate syrup into them to make them taste better.