Counseling sessions online: A virtual School Psychologist’s perspective.
I started providing teletherapy (or online counseling) services in 2016. I was a military spouse living abroad and trying to find a job in my field in a country where I did not speak the language. I love being a School Psychologist. I wanted to work but it was taking forever to even become a substitute teacher at the school on our military base. I was reintroduced to the idea of online counseling and assessment services. Excited, nervous and mostly curious…I took the plunge! Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised! During the online counseling sessions, I was able to build and maintain rapport with my students, I had more parent communication than in any public school setting before, and I was enjoying this “new direction” my career was taking. I worked part-time due to the time difference and developed experience that I was proud to include in my resume.
When my husband retired from the military in 2018, our family returned to the US and moved to the happiest place on Earth…no seriously, my husband was hired at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom as a Safety Manager for Engineering Services. I went back and forth trying to decide if I should stay “online” or if I should go back to a brick-and-mortar setting. Ultimately, I ended up working full-time for a wonderful local school district. That position helped us purchase our “forever home” and helped me to ultimately decide that working online was what I really wanted to do! I quickly missed the flexibility and independence that I had experienced while working online.
Now, I am blessed to work full-time for an amazing online therapy company run by therapists for therapists, all while working together for the betterment of children! Lighthouse Therapy has given me the opportunity to continue to serve students and families and support fellow School Psychologists as well as Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, School Counselors and Board Certified Behavior Analysts. Not all online companies are the same. I have found it to be similar to previous places I have worked–some places you love and some you don’t miss once you leave…lol! It’s important to know what you are looking for in a company so you can thrive and be effective while supporting students and families.
I am often asked, “What does counseling look like online?” and “Can you really help kids over a computer?” My reply is always YES and… don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! For online counseling sessions, I recommend individual or small groups (usually no more than 3) lasting typically from 30-60 minutes. I have done 20 minute sessions with younger students but I’ve found that even young students can tolerate a typical “30 minute television show” length session. Regardless of age, the first few minutes of every session is used for initial or continued rapport building. I have found rapport is critical whether you are in-person or online. I also allow time for a fun reward paired with a summary at the end of the session. You would be surprised at how many of your current materials can be used or adapted to online sessions! And, YouTube is your friend–wow–SO many resources available. But, ALWAYS preview first! Similar to face-to-face sessions, you can involve the student’s interests and really have a great time!
I hope I have peaked your interest or given you that nudge to explore online counseling. Looking forward to sharing some of my favorite online counseling resources soon! And- don’t forget to check out the Lighthouse Therapy website at www.lighthouse-therapy.com for more information and a look at an excellent online therapy company run by therapists for therapists!