Online services in psychology can be useful for people who for one reason or another cannot go to see a psychologist in person. But are these services a good idea for children who need help?
Therapy for children works very differently than therapy for adults. This is because adults create an understanding and meaning about their experiences or worries by talking or writing about things. So therapy for an adult usually involves talking to a psychologist. Psychological research has also found writing, such as keeping a journal, can also be useful. So although a face to face session with a psychologist may be more effective than an online session may still provide some benefit for an adult.
Child Psychologists Work Differently
Children, especially young children, do not do thing in the same way as adults. They do not create understanding and meaning just by talking about things. Children’s main way of understanding their experiences is by playing about them. (This is why children who may have been in hospital will play hospital. It helps them to understand their experience which has probably been new and scary for them.) Through play and creative activities like art, children can work though their experiences and things that may be upsetting them. A trained child psychologist can provide support and guidance to a child during play or art activities to help a child who cannot work through things by themselves through playing. This cannot be done online. A psychologist must work with a child to help them in this way. This is called play therapy (which may include art as a part of the play therapy – or ‘art therapy’ may be done on its own). Psychological research has found this is the most effective way to help children and is equal to ‘talk therapy’ for adults.
So how we explore, express and grow to understand things depends very much on our age. Adults and children do things differently. So even though online psychological help may seem useful to help a child – it’s format is actually designed for the adult word. Which is one of writing and talking rather than play.
Photo: Boy and Teddy Bear Snip by Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)