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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

How Parents Can Help Their Children Get The Most Out Of Online Therapy

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people have turned to online therapy to cope with their feelings or to continue treating a preexisting condition. Using telehealth services, whenever possible, is the safest therapy option while we’re all trying to stop the spread of the virus.

Online therapy is helpful to children as well as adults. But, since it’s something many of us are trying for the first time, parents may have a few questions about how online therapy works.

Addressing common concerns

Will my child sit through the online session without getting bored or distracted? Will they feel comfortable talking through the camera? Does the lack of in-person interaction mean online counseling is not as effective?

These questions often pop up among parents as they’re considering online therapy for their children. It’s easy to understand where these concerns come from. After all, you can never be too careful with a child’s mental well-being, so you want to make the best possible choice.

Online therapy does come with certain limitations. It’s harder for the therapist to read the child’s expressions or body language, for example. Even so, scientific evidence indicates that online therapy can help children and adolescents cope with anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues.

As for how comfortable or engaged a child feels during therapy, online counseling might actually have an advantage. You see, most children are very familiar with technology and the online environment from a very young age. They have grown up surrounded by digital devices and have spent hours exploring them or using them to communicate or play.

In addition, online therapy may feel less awkward and intimidating because it takes place in a familiar environment. It feels less like “going to the doctor” and more like “talking to a friend.” Therefore, it’s safe to say that online therapy is neither weird nor uncomfortable, even for younger children.

Engagement is always trickier with children, of course, but an experienced therapist can keep them engaged through discussion and activities. If you keep the noise down during a session, there’s no reason why a child will get distracted or lose focus.

5 ways parents can help make online therapy enjoyable and beneficial

Online counseling works, but you might still need to lend a hand. Here’s what parents can do to help their child feel at ease and get the most benefit out of online therapy:

1. Set up a comfortable environment for the meeting

If your child is trying therapy for the first time, they might feel a little nervous about it, as they don’t know what to expect. It’s a good idea to start with a discussion, where you’ll explain what their sessions will look like and how their therapist is like a new friend they can confide in.

Apart from that, and regardless of whether therapy is totally new for your child or not, you can assist in making them feel more comfortable during online sessions by setting up a calm and cozy environment. Allow your child to bring some of their favorite toys or games to share with their therapist. Maybe they can sit in their favorite chair or their bed. By creating a soothing environment where the child feels happy and comfy, therapy will no longer seem daunting.

2. Ask the therapist how you can help

If your child is just starting therapy online, you probably have a lot of questions about it and what is your role in the process. Your therapist can answer all these questions and suggest ways you can support your child while they’re in therapy.

The therapist will additionally recommend activities you can do together to encourage certain behaviors, monitor progress, or comfort the child. They’ll probably also ask you to check-in with them regularly to share feedback, receive further guidance, or address concerns.

3. Take care of the technical aspects

One of the major advantages of online therapy is that it takes place in a familiar environment. That said, you must take care of some practical aspects to ensure the session runs smoothly.

An obvious task for the parent is to familiarize the child with any tools the therapist uses during their sessions. These are usually a video conferencing tool and maybe an interactive whiteboard where the child can draw or write. If the therapist has also asked for markers, papers, and other items, keep them readily accessible.

You must also check the audio to make sure there are no lags. If you’re using a computer, place the screen at a level where the therapist can easily maintain eye contact with the child and read their body language, to the extent that’s possible.

4. Give them privacy

Therapy with children needs to be done on a one-to-one basis unless a family session is scheduled. Therapy is a very private matter, during which your child will want to share personal thoughts and feelings. This can be achieved when they have full privacy during the sessions. We don’t want them to feel like they’re being supervised, or worse, spied upon.

Using a smartphone or tablet will allow the child to move to a quiet room and have their session without the fear of being overheard or interrupted. If possible, try to avoid making noise during the sessions too, as it can be very distracting.

5. Be prepared for setbacks

During therapy, whether online or face-to-face, we are often required to leave our comfort zone and challenge ourselves. And this can be as difficult for a child as it is for an adult.

If, after a couple of sessions, your child says they don’t want to attend therapy anymore, don’t be alarmed. Listen to what they have to say. Maybe the therapist gave them a task that was too challenging and triggered anxiety? Explain that it takes time to make progress and that progress is the result of hard work and persistence. It’s always an option to reach out to their therapist if you are noticing that your child is having difficulty.

Online therapy is the next best alternative to face to face therapy. If you notice that your child is struggling with the changes we need to make in our daily lives or the worries that we are walking with, getting started with online therapy can alleviate some of the pressure until we can meet in person again.


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