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We all have a lot on our plate these days. When stress, anxiety, and/or depression start to impact our children, we know we have to get them professional help right away. But sometimes it’s not so easy for everyone to get the help they need.
Counseling to address depression and anxiety in kids can be expensive. Depending on where you live, it can be quite difficult to find an available therapist who specializes in children and teens coping with anxiety or depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), many communities are facing a shortage of child and adolescent psychologists and psychiatrists. There are approximately 15 million school-aged children in the United States who need psychiatric care, yet there are only 8,300 practicing child psychiatrists, and many of them are located only in large metropolitan areas. Finally, you may also find it very difficult to fit the appointments plus travel time into your family’s hectic schedule.
How A New Type Of Counseling Can Help Families
With so many obstacles to overcome for kids to get the help they need, it’s no wonder that so many are left to struggle. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%. In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second most common cause of death among U.S. teenagers, yet only one-third to one-half of children who need mental healthcare have access to it.
Many experts are now looking to technology to solve this mental healthcare access problem. Telehealth services for coping with anxiety and depression are becoming more commonplace. Whether you call it online counseling, telemedicine, e-therapy, telepsychiatry, telehealth, etc., this innovative approach to helping kids with mental health issues has been quite successful.
A 2013 study showed that telebehavioral health might even be better than in-person counseling for children and adolescents because they are often reluctant to participate in traditional in-person therapy sessions. The study also found high satisfaction rates for children, adolescents, and parents who participated in the online counseling.
One interesting case study is a telemedicine program launched in 2012 in Lubbock, Texas after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre to identify and treat hundreds of students in need of psychiatric services. Texas Tech University Health Science Center’s Telemedicine Wellness, Intervention, Triage and Referral (TWITR) program brings behavioral healthcare into the school to try to address serious mental health issues that could potentially lead to violence. This program operates in 11 school districts and has been used by 34,000 middle and high school students since it began.
The telehealth services platform allows behavioral health experts to connect with students who would not otherwise have access to psychiatric services. The program has resulted in 10 percent of students receiving additional counseling and 25 students being removed from their school because they showed a heightened risk of suicidal or homicidal behavior. This would not have been likely without the online service option that can reach more students in a convenient, effective way.
Benefits Of Telehealth Services
If your children need help coping with anxiety and/or depression, consider having them talk to a therapist online since it offers so many benefits to you and your children.
If you don’t live near a therapist or the ones in your area are booked up, then you will have to wait a while to get an appointment—and that appointment will probably not be at a convenient time for you. With telehealth services, your children can get much quicker access to the help they need.
Online counseling tends to have more flexible scheduling options, such as evening and weekend appointments, so kids don’t have to miss school and you don’t have to miss work. Being able to schedule therapy when it’s convenient for your family is a key factor in it being successful because it will be less stressful for you and it will be less likely that you miss appointments due to traffic, weather, illness, or other factors.
Comfortable Surroundings For Children
Children and teens often feel intimidated and uncomfortable having to meet with a therapist in their office. This could lead to a situation in which they clam up and don’t share their true thoughts and feelings. Experts are finding that kids are more willing to open up when they are in their own environment surrounded by their own things, such as a pet that can offer them comfort during the therapy call.
Going to a therapist still has a stigma in our society and people are afraid that others will spot them going to a counseling appointment. You can avoid that stress by talking to a counselor from the comfort of your home.
Familiar Modes Of Communication
Our kids are growing up always connected online, so this type of interaction is somewhat more natural for them. They tend to be more open through videoconferencing since they have been communicating with friends and relatives on programs like Facetime since they uttered their first word.
Provides Insights Into The Home Environment
According to NAMI, therapists are also finding that they can get more clues about a child’s life by being able to view the home environment during the online counseling sessions. Through telehealth sessions, therapists can potentially see more honest family interactions and get a better sense of a child’s actual behavior.
Accessibility For Those With Physical Limitations
Finally, online therapy provides a level of accessibility that you just can’t get with in-person counseling. What if you or your child breaks a leg or has a cold? With online therapy, you can still keep the appointment since you don’t have to leave your house.
What are your experiences with online counseling?