At the end of February, COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, was barely on my radar and I certainly wasn’t aware of just how much it was going to start impacting my life. Lots of the clients I work with, my colleagues, and my friends, have reflected the same thing back to me, too.
One of the biggest changes for my clients is that, before COVID-19 really hit our consciousness, the word “Telehealth” was probably rarely heard. These days, if you’re tracking the news like I have been, the word seems to be everywhere!
So what is Telehealth?
Well - despite lots of people just hearing about it for the first time - Telehealth is not new. In fact, there are practitioners from lots of different disciplines who have been offering Telehealth services for many, many years. Some services ONLY offer Telehealth services.
For example, our clinic’s director, Jessica Cleary, has been offering Teleheatlh appointments to women around Australia who have been experiencing parenting stress for a number of years now; our Speech Pathologist, Meg Tasker, has worked for a Telehealth provider, offering speech pathology services to clients locally, and some who don’t even live in Australia; and I myself have provided Telehealth treatment to clients who live rurally in the past.
Telehealth has really broadened the scope of the clients who we can reach out to and help. We, as a clinic have almost always had Zoom (like Skype) appointments as an option if a client can’t attend the rooms on the day of their appointment.
You might also be reassured to know that there is some really good evidence that tells us Telehealth can be just as effective as face-to-face therapy in most cases. In fact, there can be a stack of benefits to Telehealth for clients - not least of all that we get an insight into where you (or your child!) lives, and can help you identify things in your own home environment that can be used in your journey to wellbeing.
There are some things to think about that can help you and your child get the best out of their sessions:
- Your child might be more comfortable with Telehealth than you’d imagine. Technology is like the second language for many of our kids, and they often understand it better than we do.
- It’s always recommended for you to try the technology out in advance of your appointment. We usually offer Telehealth appointments through Google Meet or Zoom. You may have to create a Google account, or download Zoom if you’ve never used it before. If you're unsure about the technology, let us know and we'll call you and take you through it before your appointment.
- Sessions won’t be exactly the same over Telehealth as they are in-person - but different doesn’t equal “not as good”. Kids generally LOVE the opportunity to show their clinician their bedroom, favourite toys, favourite room of the house, and introduce them to their siblings. The clinicians generally love learning about the child’s life too, and having the opportunity to get a much clearer sense of what your child’s home life is like than they usually would.
- Parents often need to be more closely involved in their child’s therapy than they might expect. It’s easy for kids to treat Telehealth appointments like an hour long FaceTime session with a friend - we need you to help us keep your child on track, to defer sibling questions, make sure the child’s space is protected and private (where necessary), and sometimes to be our hands on co-therapists.
- iPads can be great for Telehealth sessions if your child has access to one - they’re portable and easy to use. Please be mindful that your clinician will end up feeling seasick if your child holds the device in their hands for the whole session though! A device stand can be really helpful to create a stable place that it can be put down if not moving from room to room, and to ensure that we don’t end up looking up at the roof (or up your child’s nose!) for the whole session.
- Your house doesn’t have to be tidied up especially for your child’s session! I can promise you that your clinician doesn’t have a perfectly spotless show home, and is not there to judge your home - most of the time, they won’t even notice if there are unwashed dishes in the sink or unfolded clothes on the couch. Having said this, it’s perfectly okay for you to set your own boundaries about where you want Telehealth appointments to take place - your clinician won’t be offended or upset if you want your child to remain in the lounge room, for example. Some families have a rule against devices in bedrooms - and we want to make sure we’re not encouraging your child to break any of the family rules - so just let us know if you have any concerns about where in the house your child goes for their appointment.
- We have the power to be flexible! Because we’re meeting you in your own home - often from our own homes - we can offer 25 minute appointments, or more frequent sessions. We’re finding lots of parents are needing additional support for their children at these times, and we can structure the appointments in such a way that both your child and yourself are getting the support you need - let us know what your thoughts are and we can work it out together.
Above all - we’re all in this together. I’m so glad that we have this option to continue working with you through this hard and stressful time in the world. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you think we can help you with something we haven’t thought of.
If you live in Australia and would like to book a Telehealth session with Hopscotch & Harmony for you or your child, please click the button below to complete our booking form and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.
Tamsyn White is the Principal Psychologist at Hopscotch & Harmony. She sees children, young people, adults, and families when challenges have presented themselves and feel overwhelming. Tamsyn has a strong working history with psychological trauma for people across their lifespan. Tamsyn loves working with people when they want to develop their skills in areas such as: loving and accepting themselves; being a fantastic parent; being a skilled communicator in their relationships; just as some examples.