The shift to telehealth has transformed the therapeutic landscape, presenting both opportunities and challenges in communication for psychologists. Effective communication in a virtual environment is pivotal to building rapport, interpreting non-verbal cues, and ensuring the effectiveness of therapy. This article explores key strategies that psychologists can employ to enhance their communication skills in telehealth settings.

1. Establishing Rapport in the Digital Realm

Building a strong therapeutic alliance online starts with rapport:

  • Personalize the Experience: Begin sessions by engaging in small talk or personal check-ins. This helps in creating a warm, trusting environment, similar to in-person interactions.
  • Consistent Professional Presence: Maintain a consistent schedule and virtual office setting. This consistency aids in establishing a professional, stable presence in the digital space.
  • Empathy and Understanding: Display empathy actively through verbal affirmations and reflective listening, as physical cues are less noticeable in telehealth.

2. Maximizing Active Listening in Virtual Sessions

Active listening is crucial in telepsychology:

  • Verbal Nods: Use more verbal affirmations like “I see” or “That sounds challenging” to show engagement, as head nods are less visible online.
  • Summarizing and Reflecting: Periodically summarize and reflect on what the client has shared to demonstrate understanding and keep the conversation focused.
  • Clarifying Questions: Ask open-ended questions to encourage clients to express themselves more fully, ensuring you grasp the full context of their experiences.

3. Interpreting and Conveying Non-Verbal Cues

Non-verbal communication takes a new form in virtual therapy:

  • Facial Expressions: Pay close attention to facial expressions, as they become a primary source of non-verbal cues in telehealth.
  • Tone of Voice: Listen attentively to the client’s tone, pitch, and pace, which can convey emotions and attitudes.
  • Physical Gestures: Be aware of what your gestures convey and encourage clients to express themselves with their hands if it feels natural to them.

4. Creating an Engaging Virtual Environment

Engagement is key to successful teletherapy:

  • Visual Aids and Tools: Use digital whiteboards, slides, or screen sharing to present ideas, concepts, or therapeutic tools.
  • Interactive Activities: Incorporate online tools or apps for interactive exercises or mindfulness activities.
  • Checking In: Regularly check in with the client to gauge their engagement and comfort level with the pace and direction of the session.

5. Technical Savvy: Enhancing the Session Quality

Technical issues can impact communication:

  • Pre-Session Tech Check: Encourage a brief technical check before sessions to ensure both parties’ audio and video are working correctly.
  • Troubleshooting Protocols: Have a simple, clear protocol for dealing with technical difficulties, such as switching to a phone call if necessary.
  • High-Quality Equipment: Invest in high-quality microphones and headphones to minimize audio issues, ensuring clear communication.

6. Adaptability in Therapeutic Techniques

Adapting therapy techniques for telehealth:

  • Flexibility in Methods: Be open to modifying traditional therapy exercises to suit the online format.
  • Client-Centered Approach: Tailor your approach to each client’s comfort with technology, adjusting techniques as needed for their technical skill level.
  • Continuous Learning: Stay updated on new digital tools and techniques that can enhance virtual therapy sessions.


Effective communication in telehealth requires psychologists to refine their techniques, adapt to technological nuances, and maintain a strong, empathetic presence online. By mastering these communication strategies, psychologists can ensure that their virtual therapy sessions are as impactful as their in-person counterparts.

In our upcoming posts, we will explore handling technical issues in telehealth, best practices for online assessments, and techniques for delivering evidence-based interventions in a virtual format. Stay tuned to enhance your telehealth practice further.