Teletherapy for Kids & Parents

We could all use some extra support right now.

Your child may not be talking much about COVID-19, but her behavior might be telling a different story. You’ve got a lot on your plate right now: juggling all the work that school is sending home, struggling to stick with a consistent bedtime, and suddenly, all the old things that used to help your child feel better may not be working so well anymore.

Whether your child’s anxiety just started or has been brewing for a while, you want to help her cope better and get back to feeling like herself again. It can be hard to do that, though, when the whole family is going through this stressful time together. As a parent, you need someone in your corner as you’re trying to hold down the fort for everyone else.

How Online Counseling and Play Therapy Help Kids

Through online counseling and play therapy, kids and preteens can learn to handle big feelings, manage anxiety, and adapt to changes in life…all from the comfort of their own home, the place that feels safest to them. Children who have experienced trauma or loss can work through their feelings so they aren’t bothered by memories of what happened. Kids battling anxiety can learn coping skills to help them relax, and spot unhelpful thoughts that might be too exaggerated to be true.

Will My Child Be Able to Focus and Connect Online?

If you had talked to me a few months ago, I would have asked this question, too! I believe that, in some ways, kids are especially equipped to succeed at online therapy. Children today have been raised with technology in a way that is different from any generation before them. They’re used to talking to people on screens. I find that, for many kids, online therapy feels as natural to them to them as using FaceTime.

Every child is different, and some children may find it easier to connect with a therapist over the computer than others. I find that kids ages 7 and up tend to do best with individual online sessions. Although in-person and virtual therapy have their differences, research suggests that online therapy can be just as effective and that children can benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy online.

Parent Support Online During COVID-19

It can be really hard to help a child with anxiety or behavior problems under normal circumstances, but right now, we’re all in a “new normal” that probably involves a lot more stress, disruptions in routines, and unstructured time at home. I want to help you take care of your own anxiety so that you can be there for your kids during this time.

When I work with parents, I like to teach some of the “bread and butter” play therapy techniques I use most often with kids in the playroom, so you can try them at home, too. Parent coaching sessions can also be a great option for parents of preschool-aged children, who may be too young to benefit from online therapy themselves. Together, we can brainstorm ways to help shape the difficult behaviors that might pop up or worsen while everyone’s cooped up together at home.

What is Online Therapy, Exactly?

Online therapy, also called Teletherapy, is a form of counseling that is held over video conferencing so that the counselor and client don’t have to be in the same place. If you’ve used Skype before, it’s a very similar experience, but with much more security in place to protect against data breaches and keep your personal health information safe. Online therapy happens in real time, and many of the same techniques I use with kids and parents in session translate easily to online work, especially cognitive behavioral therapy.

The Pros of Teletherapy

Teletherapy is different from making a visit to a play therapy office, but it’s not a “step down” from in-person counseling. Here are a few areas in which online child counseling has an edge over traditional talk therapy:

  • Kids feel more comfortable at home, so they’re more likely to behave as they usually do. This can help therapists identify the behavior difficulties a child is having and provide help in real time.
  • For many preteens, sharing deep feelings over the computer or phone is a more common experience than an hour-long, eye-contact-heavy conversation. Communicating using technology can make it easier for these kids to express heavy feelings.
  • Children with severe anxiety can get help for their symptoms when and where they need it, even if their anxiety is too severe to make it to the therapist’s office.
  • Online therapy makes counseling accessible to children who have health concerns that might be a barrier to in-person treatment.

The Cons of Teletherapy

Online counseling isn’t the right fit for all kids, and some therapy techniques are a better fit for in-person work. Here are a few of the downsides of this form of counseling:

  • Younger children (5 and under) may find it difficult to stay engaged for a full hour of individual online therapy. For these children, parent-child or parent-only sessions may be a better fit.
  • For teens, there’s more temptation to text during sessions or have multiple tabs open on their browser, which pulls focus from therapy.
  • Teletherapy may not be appropriate for children who are in higher risk situations, such as children struggling with substance abuse or severe suicidal thinking.
  • It can be a little harder for both therapists and clients to read nonverbal cues online, such as subtle facial expressions and body language.
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