You see children as young as 7 online? How does this work?
This is a question I get pretty regularly, and my answer is typically similar to working with an adult online. Yet that doesn’t feel sufficient enough of an explanation. Therefore I thought I would take the time to talk about that here.
I meet with children for 45 minutes. Their caregivers help them get online and then we meet in a private distraction free location such as their room or the kitchen. My phone is by me and I ask parents to keep there’s close at hand just in case we need to chat during the session. I then start sessions off by checking in with the child. Asking how they are doing at the present moment? How was school and their week? Because I work with the body and the mind (helping clt’s be more attuned to their body sensations and how this impacts their thoughts and feelings) I am attuned to their nonverbal cues. This includes facial cues and shifts? Do their arms tense and shoulders slump forward? Are they more or less talkative than usual? How’s their tone of voice, does it seem sad or angry? All of this helps me teach the child how they can similarly be attuned to their body sensations and help them create important links between the their thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Just like when I met with children in their homes we either used their materials (toys) or the ones I brought with me (when working online we use some fun free online games using the shared screen) to help clients create some distance and separation as they share their story (this often includes sensitive topics such as past abuse but it can also be frightening dreams they have or scary thoughts they have that make them feel bad). It’s important to note that play is important to all of us, both children and adults. The materials we use may be different (a child may use a doll while an adult might play a card game) but the result is the same. Play helps us feel calmer, it’s let’s us expel pent up energies of frustration, anger sadness and even joy. It allows us to explore and look at something from different angles. And with imaginary play it allows us to try on different roles which are parts of ourselves that rarely get shared with the outside world due to our own fears of how others will perceive us.
Children get all this experience working with me online. It helps them to share their painful secrets and process their confusing feelings about past abuse, experiences of bullying and feeling alone, and difficulties adjusting to a new community or country in their own time and way. One of the goals is to help children find their voice again. The power that was taken away from them so they can learn how to advocate for themselves (which also includes finding and using trusted adults to help them when they need it). This is a skill they will need as they continue to age and start having more intimate relationships with peers (including friendships).
After the 45 minutes is up we say goodbye to each other. Sometimes I talk with the parents after, confirm the following appointment or to even schedule a time to talk with them more in depth about things that I feel are important for them to know about their child as they continue to heal. I want to stress that I hold confidentiality very dear for all my clients, especially children. With this in mind I might have the caregiver keep an eye or track something for me, or let a parent know that their child needs a little extra help with friendships or feelings of sadness. I like to have one on one conversations with parents to make sure they feel supported and that their child is progressing on their goals.
If you want to see an example of what therapy looks like with children online click here to watch a mock therapy session. And if your child is struggling due to their past sexual abuse or other traumas reach out to schedule your first appointment.
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Until we connect again,
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