For parents who are concerned about in-person therapy for their children, I have now introduced online play therapy as an alternative. I have also introduced COVID-19 safety practices for in-person sessions, which you can learn more about, here.
With the advent of COVID-19, the world’s way of doing things turned upside down. Although, not much changed in terms of the technology we had access to beforehand. Therapists have been conducting remote counselling (also called ‘teletherapy’ or ‘telehealth’) for over 20 years. It has been studied in adults, and shown to be just as effective as in-person counselling.
While more studies will need to be conducted about online child therapy, we can say that, under the circumstances, we are observing benefits to online play therapy and online teen counselling.
Regardless, we can say that online play therapy is definitely an option for some children. And, it is certainly better than not engaging in any therapy, if your child needs the support.
Many counsellors believe that this method of helping patients will stick around long after COVID-19. Therefore, even if it’s a matter of not having time to drive your child to therapy appointments, online sessions may be a viable alternative for your case.
Note: to learn more about the benefits of child play therapy and my child-focused services, in general, please see this page of my website.
If you are interested in scheduling online play therapy or teen counselling sessions, I encourage you to start with my complimentary, 15-minute phone conversation. Contact me using firstname.lastname@example.org, or 604 700 4660.
Help your child cope through stressful life changes, especially when in-person therapy is not an option
Without a doubt, mental health issues have been on the rise for decades. When COVID-19 began, it certainly created more of a struggle for many people. Studies of previous, similar pandemic situations have shown that young people can be especially hard-hit during times like these. Children and adolescents suffer from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and more from these pandemics. Their normal development comes to a halt. Some believe the mental health impact of COVID-19 will carry on long after it is over.
We all need connections and interactions with other human beings to develop emotional and mental resilience. But, COVID-19 has made social isolation a top priority (for a good reason). Though, it is far from ‘normal’ for humans to avoid physical contact with each other.
For children who had issues before COVID-19, their situations have, in many cases, gotten worse. It is true that those with social anxiety may have had some relief when they didn’t have to go to school anymore. However, this doesn’t mean those problems will just ‘go away.’ Eventually, they will need to be faced.
Plus, COVID-19 created additional stressors for children and families. Think about it from a child’s point of view:
- Suddenly, they couldn’t go school or have play dates. Then, they had to adjust to online learning (along with their teachers). Then, they were told they had to go back to school, while everyone was anxious about how safe it was. When they got to school, everything was arranged differently to avoid the spread of disease.
- Parents and friends around them are all afraid of getting sick from the virus.
- Parents are stressed about needing to work, and somehow, still provide childcare for their kids.
- Parents are financially challenged.
- Everyone is uncertain about the situation, and the unknown future before us.
The list goes on…
For some, not being in therapy is simply not an option. Though, anyone – especially children and teens – can benefit from the help that therapy can provide.
If you feel your child is struggling, I’d encourage you to give heed to the ‘hunch’ that they may need professional support.
Children with emotional and mental health problems (even mild ones) should be treated sooner than later. The longer their issues go on, the more their mental health can become compromised. If they are not treated early, it can take longer for them to recover. This is because the longer the brain, body and nervous system are operating according to dysfunctional patterns, the longer it will take to develop new, regulated neural pathways.
Feel free to contact me, and we can start with a complimentary, 15-minute phone conversation. Email email@example.com, or call 604 700 4660 to book this initial call.
FAQs about my online child play therapy services
Below I’ll answer some questions you may have about online child play therapy, and how it works. These answers are specific to my services, based out of North Vancouver. Other therapists may choose to do things differently.
How does online play therapy work, and how have you adapted to it, as a counsellor?
As noted above, we know that remote adult therapy is just as effective as in-person adult therapy. When it comes to children, we expect more research to take place regarding this question. At the same time, with the advent of COVID-19, child play therapists have risen to the challenge. They have implemented creative ways of helping children with mental health issues, even through computer screens. While it may seem unconventional to treat children through technology, it is not impossible.
That said, play therapists have adapted quite well since COVID-19 hit our world. We have discovered ways to engage in play with a child, even through a computer screen. We have also learned a lot to make these sessions go as smoothly as possible. Most of it comes down to planning beforehand.
Of course, as many parents can testify, children are quite used to electronic devices these days. This is more so the case after they’ve had to participate in online learning for school. So, with the exception of very young children, the technology component itself is not that intimidating, nor ‘odd,’ for children.
Not only that, but when it comes to play, kids know what to do. They will still take the lead to do whatever they need in order to show us their inner world. This happens just like in-person play therapy. A child’s creativity is limitless!
To give one example, a child who is scared of the dark will find a way to communicate this fear. They may completely block the camera lens, so that their therapist is totally ‘in the dark’ (i.e. looking at nothing, just a black screen). The therapist will be left with that scary feeling of being by themselves, wondering what’s going to happen. A child may also make weird or scary noises to make them REALLY feel afraid of the darkness. This is communication through play. It happens automatically with children, regardless of the environment they’re in.
That said, we will have toys prepared beforehand, in case we need them. I send parents a list of toys to keep in a box for these ‘special’ play times with me. Children don’t have to use all the toys during our sessions, but they can, if they want to. We can also use safe objects available in the room.
For cases where a child simply will not adapt to online therapy, we can explore safe practices for hosting in-person sessions at my office.
What about very young children? How do you keep them engaged with online play therapy?
Very young children who are not yet used to being on their own for online therapy will need their parents’ help, just like if they were in a room with me, physically. Parents will be guided through the therapy process.
Another alternative is for the parents themselves to receive parenting counselling. This can help them practice the skills they learn in my sessions, when they are with their children alone. Parenting counselling can be conducted online, too (learn more about how it’s done, here). You can also learn more about its benefits, here.
How do you maintain a child’s privacy from parents or siblings during online play therapy?
If you’ve read my general play therapy FAQs, you’ll know that a child’s right to privacy is very important for their progress in counselling. Therapists hope that parents who seek play therapy for their children in the first place, will respect this ‘rule.’
Though, when it comes to online play therapy, it is true that privacy can be more easily compromised, since the therapist can not control the environment for the child. However, this can be easily arranged so as not to become a major issue.
For example, I will ask that a parent be present to set up the computer and toys in an enclosed, quiet room, and to shut the door as they leave. They should be nearby in case the child needs them. Or, if technical issues arise (such as, if the child accidentally turns off the speaker or camera). Parents must also be reachable by phone in case I need to contact them during the session.
Parents will be given a document with instructions on how to prepare for these sessions, so that they go as smoothly as possible for everyone.
Is online child therapy secure? How do you keep sessions private from third-parties?
While absolute, ultimate privacy is not something that anyone can guarantee, I do take measures in my practice to ensure I am using secure, professional technology for online therapy. I use a secure, encrypted online platform that is HIPPA compliant and used by other mental health professionals.
We will also sign an agreement that says neither of us will record the sessions, nor take photographs of each other during the sessions. Parents, of course, will sign on behalf of their children.
We will also both need to use secure WiFi connections (i.e. not public connections). So, some of the privacy and security will be dependent on the technology you are using, at home, too.
Before we begin, I will send instructions on how to set up and prepare for private, secure, online child therapy sessions.
Are there cases when a child or teen should not use online counselling?
Yes, the following situations would not be suitable for any online counselling, at any age:
- Clients with inconsistent internet strength or connectivity (e.g. in rural areas).
- Clients who don’t have access to reliable, secure technology. This can potentially compromise confidentiality.
- Clients who don’t have, are not familiar with, or are intimidated by the use of technology.
- Clients with serious and complicated mental health or psychiatric concerns (such as suicidal attempts, being near suicide, or being in crisis).
- Clients who are dependent on insurance coverage, since some insurers may not cover online counselling (although during the COVID-19 pandemic, this probably wouldn’t be an issue; your insurance provider can confirm).
Book online child and adolescent therapy sessions for quick and easy access to professional, mental health services
Children and teens need all the support and help they can get for normal, healthy development. If you observe symptoms of emotional and mental dysregulation, a child-focused therapist can help.
You can read about common signs of needing child therapy on this page.
However, please know that a child doesn’t need to be a so-called, ‘extreme’ case to reap the benefits of counselling. We all can use a ‘partner’ when learning to cope with the challenges of life.
You can also read general FAQs about my services, here.
Or, feel free to contact me, and we can start with a complimentary, 15-minute phone conversation.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 604 700 4660 to book this initial call.