Teletherapy has introduced unique challenges, especially when it comes to younger clients so that it’s important to ensure your telehealth sessions are engaging, with clear communication and a calm atmosphere.
Below, we consider some of the necessary steps for creating effective teletherapy for kids.
Discuss The Camera Set Up
Make sure the child is in the best environment possible. They should be in a place that’s comfortable and free from distraction, where they feel they can talk freely. They also need to have enough space for the camera to display most of the room.
So, it’s important to discuss the logistics with the parent or caregiver. They need to understand that the child needs privacy and should be concentrating on the session.
Discuss the location and camera position at the start of the session, or in advance of your meeting.
On your end of the camera, you too need to limit distractions in your home or office. If you’re distracted, the child will become distracted. Now is not the time to start answering emails or checking the payroll.
Use Visual Aids
Visual aids can serve two purposes during online therapy. First, they can keep children engaged during a session. Second, they can help convey warmth.
On the first point, engagement throughout an entire session can be hard for children when communicating with a screen. Simple visual aids such as whiteboards, toys, and even exaggerated gestures can help keep their focus.
Warmth is hard to convey online when tone and image can be distorted and flattened. A fun background and a bright sweater can add personality to an otherwise clinical setup.
Games and activities are an excellent way to engage children during in-person therapy sessions. They can still play an important role in teletherapy, although you may have to change the type of game you play.
There are plenty of child-friendly free games available on the internet that can form part of your session. Some EHR software and video chat services even come with simple built-in games.
Or, you might prefer something a little more practical. A scavenger hunt around the home is a great icebreaker in the first session.
Show and tell is another way to learn more about the client in a relaxed manner. Guessing games and picture games can also work over a video call.
Adjust Your Body Language
One of the struggles of telehealth is conveying tone and engagement. You might be fully engaged in a session, but to the child on the other end of a video call you’re a neutral facial expression that can look like you aren’t paying attention.
It’s important to focus on clarity during telehealth.
Subtle gestures and changes in tone can be lost when you’re communicating remotely. You need to project your body language so it’s easily read and understood by the client.
Your voice also needs to come across clearly too. As well as speaking loudly (and using a good microphone), you might need to be more descriptive than usual. This can prevent confusion and help sessions run smoothly.
It’s hard for children and teens to sit through an entire session without starting to fidget. When you’re meeting in person, it’s much easier to integrate movement into the session. Over a video call, you risk losing sight of the client.
However, limiting movement altogether can prevent the child from fully engaging. Find ways to introduce movement into the session. You might ask them to get things to show you or use games like charades to encourage movement.
Understand The Technology
Technological hitches can completely derail a telehealth session, and while young people can have an excellent grasp of technology, you need to be able to solve the majority of common issues.
It doesn’t matter how savvy you might be with a computer. At some point, you’re likely to find the call itself runs less than smoothly.
Be prepared to talk the child through using the telehealth software. If it’s your first teletherapy session together, you might want to put together a document of basic FAQs. Send it ahead of the session, so they have a chance to read it before you begin.
Children can engage meaningfully in telehealth, even if it requires adjusting the usual methods of conducting a session. It’s important to create a space without distractions that prioritizes communication. But it’s worth the work to ensure children are receiving the best care you can provide.