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Does Online Child Therapy Actually Work?

photo by: Bruno Nascimento

Yes, you are aware that, courtesy of the pandemic, a lot of things have gone online lately. And yes, your child is stressed and you want them to experience child counselling. But surely online child therapy can’t be that effective?

Actually, the opposite seems to be true.

What is online child therapy, exactly?

Online therapy means that your child does the same sort of session they would do in a therapist’s office, but over a secure video conferencing platform. This is also called ‘teletherapy’ or ‘Skype therapy‘. 

Online therapy can also refer to therapy over emails or chat, popular with teens. Or guided learning, where your child does an online skills learning program and has a therapist they check in with.

Child play therapy and sandbox therapy evidently can’t work here as they involve physical props. Nor is it advised for for a child to be diagnosed for things like learning difficulties, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), and autism over the internet. A diagnosis is best done in person.

But when it comes to your child having talk sessions with a child psychologist or psychotherapist, the internet can be surprisingly efficient.

What research says about child therapy

online child therapyThe research is quite positive, particularly for older children, who are very at ease with sharing over the internet.

An American survey found that 42 per cent of teens even admitted to feeling more comfortable sharing things over the internet than in person. And an Australian study reported that over 30 per cent of teens surveyed would choose online therapy over in-person sessions. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in particular seems to work well over the internet. It’s a short-term therapy that focuses on helping you recognise and gain control of negative thinking before it leads to negative behaviours that lower your mood.

A review of research on children aged five to 18 using online therapy found CBT effective if done online. It found better results if there is some sort of guidance and input, such as from a therapist, over just using an online program alone.

The benefits of your child working with an online therapist

1. You save time and money. 

As a parent, it’s a time saver. No transport involved, no need for a babysitter for your other children. Plus you save on the cost of transport.

2. Your child is more relaxed.

And if your child finds transport or car rides either exhausting or stressful, it can help their therapy as they are more alert and calmer.

Plus your child can do their therapy in their own environment of, say, their room. Meaning they might be more open and relaxed, and the therapy can be more effective.

3. They will likely be more open. 

online child therapyAgain, older children and teens can feel more at ease sharing things over emails, chat, and Zoom than they would feel in person. This can help you child more readily explore issues with their therapist. And  a younger child might share more in an environment they know then in someone else’s space.

And the negatives?

The one thing to keep in mind is that if your child shares more than they meant to, and feel overwhelmed? In rare occasions they might need access to further support.

This is why the British Association for Counselling and Therapists advises that online child therapy takes place during office hours. This ensures access to emergency services.

But won’t my child be bored or confused?

This is a common worry. But it tends to be parents projecting their own experience of talking over the internet onto their children.

We need to remember that our kids grew up with the internet, talking to relatives over Skype. It’s normal communication to them.

The therapist will also be trained and experience at how to sustain your child’s attention over video conferencing. That is part of their job.

And many kids are even better than us at technology, so won’t feel as stressed as we might if, for example, the signal suddenly cuts out, but will just calmly deal with it.

Your end of the deal when your child is in a session

Online child therapy can be a challenge for parents. This is because it can be tempting to break your child’s confidentiality, and listen in or interrupt, given you are in the house as well. With a young teen, for example, this could be seen as a massive breach of trust (rightfully so).

Even with a young child, if the arrangement is to let the child do their session in private, you really must. There therapist you choose for your child will make clear what privacy boundaries are in place, and you can discuss with them how to navigate those requirements.

What if I’m not sure if it’s right for my child?

You can always do a trial session and then see how it goes, or a set of, say, three sessions. And note that many therapists now offer ‘blended’ therapy, which means a mix of in person and online sessions. This is particularly useful in this period of changing rules around where we can and can’t go.

Ready to help your child feel better? Our team of child psychologists in central London is highly regarded and well reviewed. Or use our online booking platform to find affordable  online child therapy now. 


Still have a question about online child therapy? Post below. 

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