Telehealth or Online Services
Online counseling, also known as telehealth services, has accelerated in growth with the developments of COVID – 19. It is an avenue for mental health professionals to remain connected and supportive of patients, while also maintaining the safety of others. Additionally, this form of service is useful for those who may be unable to leave their home, work unconventional hours, live in rural or remote areas, or lack transportation.
What are Telehealth Services?
Telehealth services in when a counselor and patient “meet” for a scheduled appointment via the Internet. This could be through email, video conferencing or online chat. Additionally, telehealth services can be offered via the phone.
What are the Benefits to
There are many benefits to telehealth services. It offers the patient the ability to meet with and connect with their counselor in a safe manner. It offers flexibility. Teleahealth services require no transportation and can be done in the comfort of your home. This allows you to identify a space within your home that you feel safe and comfortable in. Additionally, it does not require you to drive to appointments and use valuable resources – gas and time – the way that face to face appointments require.
Can Kids do Telehealth Services?
Yes!! Our kid’s generation is often drawn to technology and use it in many forms daily. Therefore, we see that telehealth services can be less impactful on the child than what they might be on the parent. Depending upon the child’s age, telehealth services may require greater involvement in the session on the parent’s behalf. The parent may need to reinforce guidance, direction and support of the counselor. This often comes across to the child as a form of teamwork between the counselor and parent. The counselor may be more verbally directive in the telehealth session due to the limitations of telehealth services. Additionally, it requires greater creativity on the counselor’s behalf to keep the child engaged and active within the session. Please see below: Top Telehealth Tips for Kids and Teens.
What are the Drawbacks to Telehealth Services?
Some patients will tell you that there are none! Those patients are often individuals who feel comfortable with technology and embrace the creativity and flexibility of telehealth services. Others express concern about the security and confidentiality of telehealth services. Telehealth services can be delivered in a manner that is HIPAA compliant and secure. Ask your counselor about this! Finally, others share that there can be less connection to the counselor and it can take longer to develop trust. This may be true. However, we typically see that with time, this disconnection diminishes and becomes less of a barrier to your care and relationship to your counselor.
FIND A SPACEFinding a secure, comfortable space to complete your teletherapy sessions is important. For many kids and teens, a bedroom will work well. Even if kids are sharing bedrooms with siblings, a therapy session can be a great way for older kids and teens to have time alone in their room to talk about their feelings and frustrations. Another way to find privacy might be to use a home office.
CHECK YOUR INTERNET CONNECTIONEnsure that the space you choose has a strong internet connection, whether wireless (WiFi) or hard-wired (via Ethernet cord). If your home internet connection isn’t strong, consider using your cell phone or tablet connected to a cell signal to make sure that the session goes smoothly. Decide what should happen if the audio or video stops working. Usually a phone call can be a great backup plan!
MAKE A PLANBefore or at the start of each session, plan for who should be present. For parent-only sessions, make sure that kids and teens have something to work on independently or have reliable childcare. For family sessions, be sure that parents and kids are all ready to participate in the session. If the session is child- or teen-only, make a plan for a parent to check in at the beginning and end of each session.
BRING TOYSFor younger kids or those who are extra fidgety, be sure to have toys ready for them to play with while they chat with their therapist. Fidget spinners, silly putty, or even coloring books might be useful to keep their hands busy. Parents and therapists should remember that some kids and teens focus better when they are occupied! Be sure to check for understanding and focus by asking questions and reviewing information before the end of the session.
HAVE SUPPLIES READYHave paper, pens, pencils, and markers ready in the therapy space. You might be drawing, writing or creating during the session. This is a great way for therapists to increase engagement while they discuss thoughts, feelings, actions, and situations related to therapy goals.
MAKE NOTESKids, teens, and parents rarely remember all of the information that therapists provide in session. Without the benefit of paper handouts, it might be even harder to remember what was discussed! Make notes for yourself, your kids, or your teens to get the most out of your time.
PLAY GAMESTherapists play games with kids and teens to build rapport and provide a comfortable backdrop to uncomfortable conversations. If you have games at home, bring them to your therapy space. Your therapist might also be able to play games on the screen with you!
WATCH VIDEOSVideos can be a powerful tool for teaching about mental health and coping strategies. Kids and teens love watching videos in their free time – and therapists often use them too. Videos can help kids to engage with the content when other strategies aren’t readily available.
ASK QUESTIONSBe prepared with questions for your therapist. Are there new and different issues popping up? Do you have any specific concerns or questions related to telehealth? Let your therapist know, and this can be a part of your session.
DO YOUR HOMEWORKWhen therapists aren’t seeing you in person, it might be harder for them to help you complete your therapy homework. For example, when practicing exposures to feared situations, it’s harder to practice if the video session eliminates the opportunity to practice in session. Be sure to practice your therapy homework between sessions so that you can continue moving toward your goals.