What in the world are they doing for therapy? This is a question that you as a parent might have been asking before the COVID-19 outbreak and move to telehealth. And now you might really be wondering what in the world the therapist is doing with your child. As a therapist trained in traditional face-to-face counseling, let me tell you that I myself wondered what I was doing in some of my initial phone and Skype sessions. As time has gone on, however, I have realized some unique benefits of teletherapy, specifically regarding the counselor’s relationship with your child.
Therapy is all about relationship. The most knowledgeable and trained therapist can do nothing if he or she has no relationship with the child. In therapy, the initial meetings with your child are all about building rapport. The counselor might play games with your child, draw, or do other get-to-know you activities. The goal is for the child to begin to feel comfortable with the counselor. The counselor wants the child to feel safe and begin to trust us. For children who have been in multiple foster placements and/or have endured trauma, this can take a long time.
For well-established clients, the move to telehealth affects little. The therapist and child have rapport already and are able to pick up where they left off, or even deepen rapport and do greater processing work. For other clients, teletherapy is providing new opportunities for the child and therapist to get to know one another. The child has a chance to show the therapist parts of his or her home, and some of his or her favorite items. The child might even feel more comfortable sharing because he or she is around familiar and comfortable objects. The counselor, in turn, has a chance to be more attuned to the child’s facial expressions, learning more about how the child processes various emotions in his or her body. By meeting virtually, the counselor gets to express continued commitment to the child and his or her processing, especially in these uncertain times. The end result is greater rapport and a deepened relationship on which to build future work.
Have you as a parent been hesitant about the move to telehealth? I hope this post provides you some insight into how this transition might benefit your child and his or her therapeutic process. If you still have questions, however, please reach out to your child’s therapist directly. We in the CFC counseling department are here for you and want to do whatever we can to ease your anxieties during these changing times.
– Sarah Earles, MS, LPC, Child & Family Therapist