Teletherapy and Kids: Engagement and Relationships
Close your eyes for just a second…
Ok, I suppose you can’t close them and read at the same time, but just go with me here.
Pretend you’re a little one again.
Life is REALLY different right now. School ended early for the year and the world just feels kind of… strange and unsafe. People wear masks when they’re out in public. The grocery store doesn’t always have all the things that your family would normally get.
Or, maybe one or both of your parents actually lost their job and they seem worried all the time. Things are really weird. And to make matters worse, you’re told you have to stay home! You can’t go play with your friends and your friends have to stay home too!
What is that all about? NO, Fair!
At first home feels ok, but then things get kind of boring… the games and books you have get boring and your little sister is REALLY getting on your nerves.
And then the boredom shifts into loneliness.
You miss your friends from school. You miss your teachers. You miss EVERYTHING.
The World Seems Scary Right Now
For a kid right now, the world can seem disorienting and scary. Normal social connections to others are gone. For a mental health practitioner who doesn’t normally practice via teletherapy, the idea of video appointments seemed pretty disorienting and scary too! But with the onslaught of COVID-19, many of us had to jump on the teletherapy bandwagon in order to continue to serve our clients.
For those of us who see kids and teens, I think many of us felt the need to figure out what to DO with our clients during our appointments.
Will our young people be able to stay engaged during a video appointment?
And for those of us who used play as a main intervention, it felt like all of our tools were GONE! Trainings and ideas starting popping up all over the internet and in all of our online therapy resources. It was wonderful, but it was enough to make a therapist’s head spin!
Where to even begin?
We’re naturally social!
Human beings are naturally social creatures. We’re hard-wired to be that way. In fact, I listened to a podcast recently (The Happiness Lab by Dr. Laurie Santos of Yale University- check it out!) where a study was referenced that cited research that pointed to “feeling isolated is said to be as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.”
I’m not sure about you, but when I hear that, that makes me want to call up some friends.
We can still have connection
After starting teletherapy with my existing kiddos and seeing their faces pop up on the screen, I realized that even though a screen was in between us, the connection was still there.
They were still them and I was still me.
I was still going to do “therapy” things and they were still going to do “kid” things and we were still going to talk about the things we talked about. Sure, some of them were nervous. Things were different, so that makes sense. But for many, I could literally see a sense of relief when we saw each other.
To see a familiar face in an uncertain time is truly a gift; something normal in an uncertain time.
And for kids who haven’t been to therapy before, it’s still very possible to build a relationship with someone you haven’t met in person.
Think of Mr. Rogers!
He spoke to kids directly through a screen and children felt heard and seen. Millions of children all over the world had a personal relationship with Mr. Rogers.
What an amazing gift technology is!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure I’m not permanently switching over to telehealth when life has returned to “normal” (whatever that means). But it’s still very possible to do effective therapy for young people through telehealth.
The name of the game right now is adaptability and flexibility.
And for some kids, it may take some time to get them to buy-in to the idea of teletherapy. They may be “zoomed out” from school sessions. But therapy isn’t school and they may need reminded of that.
Therapy, even therapy through a screen, is a real connection to a human being who cares about you and cares about how you feel.
As humans, we need each other more than ever in a world that has become increasingly more isolated. Therapy is about personal connection and technology is a tool that can help connect us.
If you feel your child would benefit from counseling, contact us at [email protected] or call 217-203-2008 to schedule a session. You can also learn more about Champaign Counseling at www.champaigncounseling.com.