How Telehealth Play Therapy Helps Kids Cope with Life in a Pandemic
Kate and her family had officially started telehealth therapy. They had worked through some technical issues, had their first session, and Kate was looking forward to seeing her therapist again on video. Throughout the week until our next appointment, Kate’s mother remained hopeful the family could continue to make progress in therapy while so much in their world was changing. Change is hard for Kate, and her mother wondered how she would adjust. She reminded Kate that the family needed to be ready with art supplies, paper and crayons for their next teletherapy session. During the week, Kate colored various pictures to show her therapist.
In Therapy, Children Can Find Meaning in Drawing Pictures
Kate’s family logged on to the telehealth website at their appointment time, and her therapist started the session quickly. Kate had brought not only the paper and crayons, which I had asked of her last time, but also two different pictures she had drawn throughout the week. Kate held them up to the camera to show me. The first was of Moana, and the second was of Kate and a friend from school. I asked about each picture, going slowly and acknowledging the hard work Kate had put in to each one.
Kate explained how Moana had to go away to fight something that was killing her island and in turn would hurt her people. Kate’s therapist acknowledged how the coronavirus was hurting people, making them sick, and staying at home was how we are helping to fight it. Her therapist also reflected for Kate how we can feel the need for help, especially now when something so big, so different from anything we have experienced, has changed our whole way of life. Kate then held up her second picture, the one of her and her school friend.
Telehealth Therapy Is a Resource for Navigating School at Home
Kate explained how she missed her friend and school. Well, to be exact, Kate missed the social aspect of school. Kate was glad to be home and was not thrilled she still had to do schoolwork. Her therapist validated how important friends are to us, and how it is okay to miss them. When the therapist asked if Kate might like to do a video call with her friend just like we were doing now, Kate enthusiastically nodded yes. This conversation helped Kate’s mother understand the importance of keeping her connected to friends during this time. Kate’s mother came up with the idea to set up a few video playdates and Kate was excited.
We then talked about the week, and how things had gone. Kate expressed frustration over having to do schoolwork at home, and her mother expressed exhaustion over trying to keep everything organized. Kate, her mother and therapist talked about setting up a schedule at home, much like a school schedule. Together, they came up with a plan to help Kate get schoolwork done and have individual playtime in which Kate’s mom could cook, clean and do a little work herself. Kate’s mom felt much more organized and ready to tackle the week with a plan. They had things to do, playdates and a schedule to help keep everyone on track. They felt good.
Kate and her family checked in with their therapist weekly moving forward. The family hit some bumps with the schedule for home, and the therapist helped Kate’s mom adjust it and gave the family ideas on how to make it work better for them. Kate told me about the video playdates with friends. Her mother told me how she noticed differences in Kate on the days they had video playdates, and those they did not. Kate was much more excited and happier when she got to see friends. Kate had also adjusted to telehealth and it seemed to be going well.
In the Next Post: When Trouble Arises
It sounds like Kate has done well adjusting to change, and her mother feels like they are in a good rhythm. Clinicians have learned that each family, each child, takes their own path through the ups and downs of the events that have overtaken our lives since March. In the next post, we will explore some of those bumps and how clinicians have been able to help families when it all falls apart.
A mental health practitioner at Wilder wrote this post as part of a series about using telehealth to provide mental health services. Staff will share their experiences to provide a fuller picture of how kids are growing with telehealth mental health services.