Returning to Therapy in Person?

Written By

Cristina Shea, LMSW

Tags: In-Person, Therapy, COVID, COVID-19, Therapist, Online

What to know about the transition from telehealth to therapy IRL 

It may be hard to believe that we entered the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago. It seemed to happen overnight. Gone were the days of getting ready, timing a commute, and trying not to spill our coffees as we ran to the train. Our normally in-person society quickly shifted to a virtual world, attending meetings in our pajamas, maybe from our childhood bedrooms or our kitchen counters, with dogs barking and children playing in the background, all while trying to figure out how to navigate Zoom, some of us for the very first time.

Providers were faced with a significant learning curve when we had to frantically make our in-person interventions virtual, though our creativity expanded the world of mental health into one that is more accessible, flexible, and in some ways more human, as we all experienced a community and global traumatic event together. Although the world has now primarily settled into a more recognizable routine, complete with commutes longer than those from our beds to our desks and back again and meetings with people we can see from the neck down, healthcare, and mental healthcare especially, continues to operate predominantly via telehealth.

Telehealth has increased accessibility to providers and allowed therapy to reach clients near and far. The American Psychological Association (APA, 2021) reported a nearly 50% increase in adults ages 18-64 regularly attending therapy sessions. However, there remains a need and a desire for services to be available in person, furthering the depth of the therapeutic relationship. 

Nearly three years later, therapists are faced with the question, “What now?” as a client, you may feel the same way. Many therapists plan to maintain some availability for virtual therapy, some opting no longer to see clients in person for the time being. A survey by the APA reported that 96% of providers offered virtual therapy (2021). Still, many therapists cannot scratch the same itch with virtual models and report feeling eager to offer therapy in person once again, noting that the relationship can be significantly deepened and broadened in some otherwise stuck therapeutic alliances (Demelo, 2021).

Many clients have only ever experienced therapy online, so this could be a significant shift, one that is both exciting and quite anxiety-provoking. As we transition back into the office, you may wonder what to expect. What will the office look like? Will the sessions feel different? How tall is my therapist? We’ve gathered some tips from therapists to ease your worries and answer some of these questions before you make that first journey to your therapist’s office.  

Ask your therapist what to expect. 

  • Don’t shy away from talking about the environment with your therapist before you get there. Ask them what the room will look like. Will there be a chair or a couch? Is it cold or warm? Should I bring my water? Anything that might come to mind is a good question if it will ease the experience of attending therapy in person. 

Plan your commute. 

  • Your commute to therapy won’t be as simple as moving from your couch to your desk, but it mustn’t be too difficult! Plan your commute ahead of time. Decide how you’ll get there (drive, walk, bike, train) and plan how long it might take. Give yourself 10 extra minutes in case of traffic or delays and enough time to find the office and settle in. Maybe even scope out a nearby café to grab a treat before or after your session! 

Trust your therapeutic relationship. 

  • At the end of the day, it is your therapist’s job to ease this transition for you, just as they may have eased your transition into telehealth. You have the job of getting yourself to the office and showing up for your session. Your therapist can take it from there. Hopefully, you will have the time to process what it feels like to be in person, reflect on the journey since your first Zoom therapy session, and continue the growth that began on the screen as it continues to expand off the screen. It will surely feel different, but the hope is that this will only add to your therapeutic journey as you continue to explore yourself in the virtual and actual office. 

Therapy offers a place for safety, security, discovery, and growth. The long-awaited shift toward a return to the office is complex, and it may offer a whole new layer to your therapeutic experience. Do you remember how you felt before your first session with your therapist? Likely nervous, curious, and maybe even a little scared. Look at you now! This may feel the same, but you probably know your therapist well enough to swing right back into your routine together this time.  


American Psychological Association (2021) Worsening mental health crisis pressures psychologist workforce. 2021 COVID-19 Practitioner Survey. Retrieved Apr 12, 2023.

Demelo (2021) Should You Resume In-Person Therapy. New York Times. Retrieved Apr 12, 2023.

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