Lighthouse Therapy was founded by a speech-language pathologist to address the therapy needs in the school setting. This gives us a greater understanding of the pros and cons of teletherapy for students requiring speech therapy services. But not every student requires speech therapy services. Some students require occupational therapy, and others need behavioral and mental health counseling services.
The biggest benefit of teletherapy is the ability to serve students all around the country. This allows schools to provide their students with therapists even if they are located in a rural or underserved area. It also allows the therapists to see more students as travel time is nonexistent. There is also the added benefit of scheduling flexibility.
One of the concerns with occupational therapy provided via teletherapy is that students might not have something required for the day’s session. To counter this issue, asking the parents what they have available can allow the therapist to modify the lesson and use what the student actually has. It is also possible to send “toolkits” to the students so the therapist knows exactly what the students have available to address their goals. Both therapist and student have exactly the same kits.
For school psychologists, there is the consideration that the therapists might come across as more clinical and struggle to connect with the students. However, students tend to be more cooperative, simply because they are in a location they are familiar and comfortable, as compared to going to an office. Per Melissa Stringer, LMHC, DCC, NCC, in her article entitled Confessions of a Virtual Therapist: Pros and Cons of Online Therapy, she stated, “The thing I place the most emphasis on—the integrity of the therapeutic relationship—is not diluted in any way because we are connecting through a screen. In fact, people often tell me that their online experience has been more satisfying than their previous in-person therapy.”
In addition to clinical concerns, the biggest struggle any therapist faces, no matter their discipline, is licensure. Therapists need to be licensed in both the state they live in, as well as the state in which their students reside. This can be a more difficult hurdle, simply because it can be a rather slow process to acquire the necessary licensure. Each state has its own set of policies and procedures that the therapist must know and follow.
Overall, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to teletherapy. It truly allows therapists to spend more time seeing students. And students enjoy their sessions just as much if not more than when they had them face to face. As our technological age continues to advance, teletherapy continues to grow in accessibility and prevalence.