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The scene: your clients are all signed on to work via telemental health while you’re away on vacation. You’ve finished your telemental health training program and practiced with a couple of friends — and then you practiced with a couple of clients. You’re feeling confident that you’ve got it down. You’ve packed your bags and you’re ready to head off for an extended trip without missing any client sessions while you’re gone!
“But wait!,” you realize, “I did all my practice and preparation in my office, where I have control over my environment. How will I set myself up for effective video work in all those hotel and guest rooms I’ll be staying in??”
Never fear. There’s a way. Read on!
Carry The Internet With You
A bad Internet connection will mean bad session outcomes, with freezing video and choppy sound. You need to make sure you’ve got the best connection you can manage.
Avoid: Hotel or airport WiFi. These will make for inconsistent and choppy sessions, and can turn your computer or tablet into a virus-riddled mess. Stay away.
Use: A personal cellular hotspot. (Or you can just use your smartphone, if you have the right data plan.)
Assuming you aren’t doing your sessions in a bunker or somewhere super-rural, your cellular phone connection should provide speeds and reliability that rival most home WiFi.
What’s more, the Internet connection is your own — you won’t be “sharing the WiFi lagoon” with everyone else at the hotel, airport, beach resort, or wherever you are. That means that speeds won’t fluctuate and bad guys will have a very hard time messing with you.
Shared WiFi, even if it’s secured, can be used to perform various kinds of hackery on your connected device. As we teach in our telemental health program, don’t connect your practice-related devices to public WiFi.
WiFi at a friend’s house might be acceptable if you know enough about WiFi to determine if the security hasn’t been compromised and that your speeds won’t be impacted by other people in and around the house.
Most people, including myself, prefer to use their own cellular Internet connection for such “mission-critical” things as telemental health sessions.
But I Don’t Have Enough Data! And My Phone Gets Hot!
Most of us don’t have a data plan fat enough to handle more than a couple telemental health sessions per week. Smartphones can also get hot if they’re being used heavily as a hotspot.
Many people, including myself, get a special cellular WiFi hotspot for exactly these reasons. You can acquire a hotspot by visiting your cellular service provider. They generally create a special data plan just for the hotspot. So it can be as big or small as you need, and it doesn’t cut into the data you and your family use on your phones.
The hotspots are built to handle the load, and usually have stronger antennas than smartphones. You can even buy antenna attachments to boost the signal! This can be useful if you plan to go places where the cellular signal isn’t so strong.
A One-Device Studio
Some computers have pretty good built-in cameras and microphones (the iPad pro has a great camera, for instance!) But many built-in cameras are not only lower quality, they are also impossible to adjust without moving your screen along with them.
To achieve the good sense of eye contact and ability to assess client affect that you learned about in your training program, you need to be able to set your computer and camera just right. Using an external camera will help with that.
You also will struggle with substandard lighting a lot, since you’ll have limited control of light sources. This is another reason to use a high-quality camera that is good at managing poor light without making you into a psychedelic music video.
I am happy to say that I’ve had a specific favorite camera that I have recommended for a long time and continue to recommend. The Logitech C920 (accept no substitutes!) has a good camera and a good microphone, and is designed to work well with the kind of configuration you will use when doing video-based telemental health sessions.
It’s nice and compact, too. I keep mine in a small tupperware container! (That also protects it from travel damage!)
Those who’ve completed our telemental health certification program will know that this article still leaves questions of lighting, dress, background color, and other items unanswered.
Those are points that you can usually control or improvise around when you arrive at your “remote offices,” though. It’s much more difficult to improvise a better Internet connection or improved video quality. That’s why I carry my hotspot everywhere and my camera when I expect I might need it.
Also, some computers may not need the external camera — the built-in might be fine. But be sure you test the difference. Many people are willing to tolerate bad video quality because they’re used to it. Once you know how to deliver a god quality session, though, you won’t want to compromise. Not even when you’re on the road!
(And if you haven’t done it yet, you can always check out our Telemental Health Certificate Program!)