Interventions for Online Therapy with Children and Youth

Written By Ariel Landrum, LMFT, ATR

In response to “flattening the curve” of the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), many therapists, social workers, counselors, and others in the mental health field are taking their practices online. They have had to hurdle legal and ethical considerations, onboard new HIPAA compliant software, learn to troubleshoot, all while managing their emotions, and their client’s fears around the pandemic. It has not been easy. But treatment must go on. So, many who work with children and youth are wondering, how do I do therapy online with them?

According to Marketing Chart’s 2012 survey, they learned that 42% of teens are more comfortable sharing information and are even more open online than in person. American Well (Amwell) has reported in 2017 that because of the benefit of experiencing therapy inside the comfort of the home setting*, it normalizes mental health care, and is especially useful for the generations of people who are accustomed to interacting with others online. Even a study posted in Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review in 2018 with 3,113 children ages 6-18 learned that computerized and internet CBT intervention for both depression and anxiety are effective forms of treatment for youth.

In my practice, I have found using online therapy to be useful with children, youth, and families. They are often able to open up quicker, and process emotions faster as they’re in an environment they already equate with safety. Access to their home life also allows me to witness and intervene in parent-child interactions that are more representative of their normal behavior. I also noticed that navigating video conferencing is easy for my young clients, as they have grown up with streaming technology. Many of them even know the common tips on troubleshooting (like restarting the program or closing other internet heavy programs). I mention all of this, aiming to bring comfort to those who have never done online therapy and are wondering if it will be at all sufficient for their under 18-year-old clients.

There have been a variety of interventions I use with families and youth online. From screen sharing activities to regular talk-therapy interventions, it’s easy to come up with a whole host of things to do with your child and youth clients. One less common go-to for me is DND, but not everyone is a nerd, and learning how to be a Dungeon Master is its own set of skills.


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