Making Online Therapy Work
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
Young people do this already
They talk about the next generation as being 'digital natives'. Our young people grew up with the internet, social media and smartphones. Our teenagers don't ever hold a phone to their ear, our primary schoolers can zip around google search or online classrooms and our preschoolers happily take the phone all over the house to show grandma today's colouring. These guys are comfortable with technology and they know how to make it work for them.
Before the pandemic we saw teenagers who chose to do therapy online. It feels less intrusive for them and they get to control it on their own terms without having to be taken out of school and driven somewhere. During the pandemic it took off in a big way. For some that was purely out of necessity but despite any misgivings (on the part of the therapists not the teens) - it worked very well.
Important elements are still there
Working online, we have found we can still see and understand each other. We can still read each others’ facial expressions and body language. There is still a lot of laughter and creativity in the sessions. Young people can be in their own space where they feel comfortable. They can even have the cat with them if they want!
Top tips for making online work
There are a couple of things that really help to make online therapy work well.
Where: Think about where makes you feel most comfortable, but also means you won’t feel like therapy is invading your private space. Where do you feel like you won’t be overheard but have good enough signal for it to work uninterrupted?
When: Some young people prefer to have sessions during the day, and most schools have found ways to make it possible for us to use a private room on the school site. Or maybe there's a time when noisy little brothers are out of the house?
Who: Who else is there, and who else wants to join the session? Depending on the age of the young person, parents may need or want to be present for some or all of the session, so having them on call is important. Several young people have also chosen to have pets with them for some or all of the session, and I have been virtually introduced to some lovely cats and dogs over the last year I would never have seen otherwise.
What: Think about whether headphones with a mic will help - you can talk without being overheard and even play music in the background to make sure only the therapist hears you.
How much: Not all young people enjoy being seen on screen. I have worked with people with their screen off, so they can see me but I can only hear them, or with their screen on but angled so I can’t see their face. As long as I can be confident that I’m not just chatting away to myself (and I promise I do usually notice after a while!) I am happy to do whatever makes a young person feel most comfortable.
What a teenager has told us about their online therapy
"My psychology sessions have been very helpful. I had been struggling with anxiety and self harm and having these sessions gave me helpful ways to reason with my thoughts and overcome social anxiety as well. Since there is no way to stop anxiety, I was given useful techniques to deal with these issues as well."
13 yr old patient in 2021
What a parent told us about online therapy
"Our son was finding his worries were escalating out of control and impacting his happiness considerably. We knew that we needed professional help to give him the freedom from worry that we so wanted for him. We began a series of online therapy sessions with Dr Care and it was so easy and worthwhile. With a more home-based approach, we had online sessions and conducted CBT at home with lots of guidance and feedback. Over time our son's worry was helped dramatically and is now in control. We have regular 'check-in' sessions to keep things on track but all in all, we are delighted with the transformation Helen has bought to our son's life. All of the sessions have been conducted online and I cannot see that in-person sessions would have resulted in a better outcome. I wouldn't hesitate in recommending virtual sessions with Dr Helen Care to any family or person seeking help."
My view as a therapist
For me personally, online has been very helpful. I have had some health concerns and am still classed as clinically vulnerable, so I haven’t been able to go back to in-person working yet. I am really looking forward to being able to offer face to face appointments again at some point, but I don’t think I will ever ditch online work altogether. It has been a brilliant option for many patients and I suspect it always will be.
Dr Helen Care
Chartered Clinical Psychologist
A Confident Start
Supporting young people with therapy and education.