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Determining Who’s Appropriate for Teletherapy: Behavior and Mental Health Services in Schools

Behavioral and mental health teletherapy has a long research history – over 50 years. It originally started in the military as a way to provide services to deployed active duty members. Over time, its uses spread to other circumstances for adults and, eventually, children. Inherently, teletherapy makes sense for talk therapy – talking is talking regardless of it being in person, on the phone, or via video conferencing.

Recently, teletherapy has been found effective, not only for counseling, but for traditional kinds of group therapies, skill building, and behavioral modification.

Even though it seems like more in-depth types of services may not be as straightforward as talk therapy, they are often similar to onsite services. Games and activities that are typically done onsite can be done remotely as well. For every workbook or game, there is a digitized version of it ready to be used online. Computer-based therapy also includes videos, online programs, and software designed to facilitate therapeutic services. Because the remote professional delivering the service is a live human being making realtime decisions and using traditional tools, teletherapy really doesn’t significantly differ from what is done in person.

Teletherapy faces the same challenges as onsite therapy, as well. A student’s ability to attend and need for redirection can play a significant role in what they gain from services, regardless of modality. There is also the concern for students threatening harm to themselves or others, which requires an emergency action plan for both onsite and remote professionals, as the appropriate mental health help is not always available at the school site at the time of crisis.

One positive difference of teletherapy is its appeal to digital natives and the way they connect to the world. Students now have whole networks of friends they have never met in person and have very rich relationships that are completely online. They teach themselves how to do things by watching videos online, they entertain themselves with games and websites, and they communicate with the world online. Sometimes this type of student can become bored with non-technological delivery methods. Some even find in-person communication to be abrasive and confrontational. Providing them with an option to connect with a professional that is in their preferred communication style can be a key to opening them up to the service.

So who is right for teletherapy? Chances are it’s more students than you might have initially thought. Most students who can benefit from onsite services can benefit from teletherapy.

This post is by Stephanie Taylor, Ed.S, NCSP, Director of Mental Health and Psychoeducational Assessments for PresenceLearning.

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