Online therapy for adults has become normal, particularly within the on and off constraints of a pandemic world. This has also seen the rise of online therapy for kids.

What is online therapy for kids?

Also called 'remote therapy', it's what it sounds. Counselling and psychotherapy using the internet.

This is often over video, but it can also refer to therapy via email ('e-therapy') or chat, the latter of which is popular with teens.

Some therapists might also offer what’s referred to as ‘blended therapy’, which means a mix of online and in-person sessions.

How does therapy over the internet work?

Not all therapies for children can work via the internet. Play therapy and sandbox therapy, useful for younger children, is not an option as it has to be done in person. And an assessment and diagnosis, such as for learning difficulties or autism spectrum disorder, would be done in person.

But general counselling, grief counselling, CBT therapy, and also some forms of skills training, like social skills, can work well using the internet.

Just like therapy in person, this means your child must be present at an agreed on hour. Only this time they will be in the comfort of your home, in a quiet room. It requires a steady internet connection, and working sound plus microphone.

Won’t my child be bored?

Children of this generation have grown up with technology, so it’s often as engaging to them as speaking in person. Of course it is important they are in a room with limited distractions.

And if your child has ADHD or learning difficulties, this might not be the therapy format for them.

The positives of online therapy for kids

1. Some children feel more at ease.

Being in the safety of their home and without the pressure of an in-person interaction can make some children more relaxed. They might be more prone to open up and share their thoughts and feelings.

This also happens due to ‘online or phone disinhibition’. We tend to share more when there is physical distance between us and someone. A classic example is someone who easily says ‘I love you’ over the phone, but clams up in person.

2. It saves the stress of the journey in.

Online therapy for kids saves the stress of getting your child ready and travelling together. If your child finds such a journey stressful, then therapy from home means they start the session already calmer than usual.

3. It can be cheaper.

Sometimes online therapy is cheaper than in person therapy, depending on the therapist. At the very least you save time and the cost of the journey to and fro an office.

The downsides to sessions over the internet

1. Your child might feel worried about you being there.

They might be less open if there is a danger you or a sibling hear what they say. This is particularly true with older children and teens who might be concerned with their privacy.

2. And you might be more tempted to invade your child’s privacy.

Depending on your child’s age, their sessions might be confidential, and you might be given only updates. Being at home when your child is doing therapy might tempt you to listen in in the next room. If a teen is doing email or chat therapy, and accidentally leaves their emails or chat box open on a shared family computer, you might be tempted to have a read which is a strong breach of trust.

You need to have a very clear agreement on what your involvement with your child's therapy will and won’t be, and then respect it.

3. Your child might share more than they are ready for.

If a child feels very at ease at home, they might then share a bit more than they end up being comfortable with. And there is no transition to create separation with this feeling, no 'leaving it behind' in an office and going home.

For this reason, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) recommends “scheduling sessions within normal working hours (where possible) to ensure access to appropriate support services” as required. And it’s also why remote therapy is not always appropriate if your child is suicidal or self-harms.

Can remote therapy work for my child?

It depends on your child, their issues, and their needs.

If your child is more comfortable at home, and is suffering general anxiety or relating issues, it might be perfect.

On the other hand, if your child needs play therapy, is angry at you and doesn’t like you around, has attention issues, or is very vulnerable and volatile? Maybe not.

It’s best to have an advance discussion with the online therapist about whether or not this way of working might suit your child.

What do I need to look for in an online therapist?

  • look for a therapist who is first and foremost qualified to work with children
  • who has experience at and is trained in online therapy
  • and is registered with and works within the ethics and protocol of their registrar, such as the BACP, the UKCP, or the ACP (Association of Child Therapists).

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