confessions of an accidental online therapist.
“…I went from comfortable and secure Educational Psychologist in her comfy practice in Pretoria to a digital therapist lost in cyberspace. But I liked it!”
Insights into digital counselling by a newly appointed online child therapist.
Over the past few weeks, Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown has shocked us to the core. As a psychologist working primarily with the youth, I had to swiftly conjure a way to continue with therapy for my most vulnerable patients.
When it comes to the virtual world, I can be rather technologically impaired, and the thought of working exclusively online was daunting. Fortunately, I’m rather rebellious, and refused to give into these fears. Luckily my clients are mostly the same. Together we stumbled into the virtual world, and this is a snapshot of my experience so far.
Firstly, children are highly adaptable….
They took to online work like ducks to water. I was amazed at how quickly they adapted to being at home, and away from school and their friends, never mind being in the company of only adults… When given some control and independence, many kids have navigated these massive challenges with much dexterity, and even maturity.
Children are clever.
Along the way they have guided me into the virtual world, and showed me how to operate some of the various features of the app I am using for online sessions. They have even introduced me to some of their amazing games. Through this, I’ve seen them develop self-esteem and a sense of competence. Which leads me into my next observation:
Children have much to teach us – if we are willing to observe and truly listen.
When we can let go of the notion that we are the boss, and must decide on the way forward, children are actually remarkably good at taking the lead. I am not suggesting that we sit back and let our kids take the reigns in serious situations, but sometimes, we can allow them the opportunity to show us a little bit of what they are good at. This really boosts their confidence and self-esteem.
Children are braver than we give them credit for.
I’ve been gearing for an influx in anxiety related difficulties, but have found that my kids are resilient. They seem to be calm and willing to do what needs to be done, to stay safe. Sure, they don’t have to worry about bonds, car payments and where the next salary will come from, but they do have their own individual forms of stress, much the same as us adults. They worry about us too. For this reason, I’m still of the opinion that more anxiety related ‘stuff’ will be coming in the near future, but children have the ability to manage and overcome these big feelings, with a little support.
Children struggle to keep their own space neat and tidy.
I ask to do therapy in a private space that has toys and stationary readily available. Children therefore often ‘see’ me from their rooms, which can be pretty untidy. Parents have been complaining to me about this, a lot, especially now that so many of us do not have helpers at home The good news is, once I see it, the children will often discuss this with me. We can then work on ways to maintain relative order throughout the week. Children are great at socialising in different ways.
Children are frequently described as zombies, hiding behind their screens.
The notion that they are socially inept often comes up in conversations. The truth is, they are very social, they miss their friends, and they feel lonely. Playing games online in a virtual world, allows them to ‘socialise’ in a way that they feel comfortable with. I am amazed to see how these kids come together to save the world in an online game. Perhaps, for now, we need to allow a bit of online gaming and socialising, because this is the only way they get to connect during lockdown.
Children are only human.
They feel all the emotions we do, but they do not have the cognitive capacity to deal with them the way we do. I see children who are being stubborn, and difficult, especially regarding school work. I hear that they are not enjoying learning in this way, and that the work load is extensive. Some are even becoming rather aggressive and avoidant. Please remember, that regression under these circumstances is totally normal.
Children just don’t have ability to regulate their emotions in the same way an adult does.
So they feel our stress, and they are trying hard to be brave, but it makes learning really hard. Don’t expect too much from them during lockdown in terms of academic achievement. Rather focus on making that which they are learning fun, so that they remember this time as a rather weird, but fantastic time.
I’m sure as the next few months of Covid-19 life unfolds, I’ll learn much more from the awesome children that cross my path. I look forward to breaking away from the mundane and routine household tasks in order to escape into a virtual world with them, where we find ways to overcome the dark and uncomfortable times together.
Children are simply amazing!
Take care of each other.
Frances Kaplan is an Educational Psychologist who has a passion for children, and working with their families.
+2783.676.1462 – Emergency contact
010 030 0381 – For apppointments and enquiries