Telehealth as an Effective Option for Kids in the Age of Covid-19

We are in an unprecedented time. Schools and places of employment are closed. Entire states are requiring people to stay at home. There are new challenges we face: our kids may be being educated at home while parents work from home; we may not be able to access services or supplies as easily as we were able to in the past; we may feel isolated, frustrated, or scared. Caring for our mental health is paramount as we navigate the unknown. Luckily, therapy is always an option, and we can now visit with our therapists from the comfort of our own homes.

Telehealth has taken off in the past few years, and it is show to be beneficial – it can be flexible, more accessible, and convenient – just to name a few reasons. In the mental health field, clients have been able to text, call, or video chat with a therapist across distance, and have been able to have sessions while in their car in between work meetings or after the kids are in bed.

Did you know that telehealth can also be great for kids, too? Imagine being able to schedule a therapy session for your child at your convenience without the stress of having to load everyone in the car, drive to an office, and sit in a waiting room. Consider the impact that a familiar setting may have on the therapeutic relationship. Kids may take comfort and open up more easily when they are in their own home surrounded by familiar things, stuffed animals, and pets. Therapists can use what they see in the child’s home to ask questions and encourage conversation. Telehealth provides a window into a world that a therapist would not otherwise have, which may help therapy be more effective. Think about it – a parent may describe to a therapist how a child melts down at home, and the therapist may not necessarily see those same behaviors during an in-person session because it is a less familiar environment. Telehealth can provide opportunities for a therapist and parent to problem solve and try different strategies in real time. In addition to a familiar setting, kids today are also more knowledgeable and comfortable with technology than they ever have been. Technology is how they communicate with each other, and often how they do their assignments for school and communicate with teachers. Why should therapy be any different? Telehealth is a natural fit for how kids interact with the world today.

You may be wondering how telehealth works for kids. With younger kids, it may require more parent involvement than an in-person session. Kids may need assistance setting up the technology and staying focused. You may want to turn off the television, set up a private space (a separate room, or even a blanket fort!) for your child to have access to the computer/smart phone for their session, sit the child on a couch or a blanket on the floor (and pretend the rest of the floor is hot lava!), or invest in a pair of noise canceling headphones to help with distractions.  Your child’s therapist may reach out to you ahead of the session to ask you to have some materials prepared – perhaps some crayons and paper, a board game, or a favorite book. Your child’s therapist may use stories, puppets, and games such as I-Spy and Simon Says. To engage adolescents, your therapist may use podcasts, videos, or online gaming. Your child’s therapist may even spend more time talking with you and coaching you through parenting issues.

Families right now are experiencing extreme changes in lifestyle, and it is essential it is to have someone to talk to during these uncertain times. Whether you are unable to meet with your current therapist in person for the time being, or whether you are newly considering therapy for yourself or your child, telehealth can be an excellent resource for kids and adults alike.

Beth Nakad, LCSW