The Expansion of Online Therapy for Teens During COVID-19

Online therapy is expanding as the COVID-19 pandemic has made in-person therapy less accessible and safe. Before the pandemic, online therapy services were rapidly growing to meet the needs of a new generation. After all, both Millennials and Generation Z already spend the majority of their time on their mobile phones, portable tables, or laptop computers. Given such a focus, working with a remote therapist is not a huge leap for these generations.

The first and most basic question is: “What is online therapy?”. Online therapy is a form of professional mental health counseling services that occur over the Internet. Provided on numerous platforms, services tend to be offered via email, text message, real-time chat, and video conferencing.

Indeed, various early manifestations of tele-counseling have been previously available. However, the technical evolution of video chat systems and broadband internet options led to major growth in online therapy options recently.

Is Online Therapy Effective?

The answer to this question depends on the quality of the services provided and the individual teen. Like with any healthcare provider, online therapy for teens comes in many shapes and forms. Thus, parents need to vet online therapy options as they would an in-person medical provider, making sure their reputation is solid via online reviews and strong credentials. After all, you want your teenager to be in the right hands to best help them on their journey.

Beyond finding a qualified provider, there is no question that online therapy is effective when properly implemented. According to a 2018 research study published in the US National Library of Medicine by the National Institutes of Health, “Online and virtual therapies are effective resources for addressing the mental health needs of youth. Although the majority of empirical research addresses cognitive-behavioral based programs delivered through CD-ROMs or Internet websites, new approaches continue to be developed and trialed. Indeed, the future of such techniques is limited only by the imagination and drive of those working in this space.”

Given such conclusions, online therapy options for teens with a remote therapist or counselor makes a lot of sense. A form of telemedicine, teletherapy is advancing with the latest innovation in cell phone technology. Therefore, from traditional internet offerings to the newest cell phone apps, a wide range of online therapy options for teens are now available.

Why Is Online Therapy Effective for Teens?

There are many reasons why online therapy for teens is proving to be a useful and innovative resource. Matianna Baldassari, a Los Angeles-based Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, has extensive experience doing teletherapy with Millennials and Generation Z. She is not surprised that online therapy has grown in popularity.

As Matianna Baldassari explains in an exclusive interview, “Many younger Millennials and Generation Z grew up on screens. For a good portion of them, making the transition to teletherapy comes naturally. For some members of this age group, teletherapy offers a sense of control and privacy that leads to a greater comfort level.”

Given the flexibility, online therapy is a solution for teens that has suddenly become an unexpected necessity. Many online therapy programs offer a choice between video and audio forms of communication with either a therapist or a counselor. Also, scheduling at a time of convenience for teens proves to increase comfort. Done in their home or wherever they choose like an empty classroom after school, online therapy can often be more affordable than the majority of face-to-face sessions.

Finding the Best Online Therapy Apps and Online Therapy Services

When a parent faces the challenge of finding the best online therapy apps and services available, it makes sense to use proven, tried-and-true tools. For example, questions developed to find an in-person therapist can be adapted for online therapy for teens.

By shifting the focus slightly, such questions still apply. A set of questions is offered on the youth.gov website, a United States government venture that helps both providers and parents create, maintain, and strengthen effective youth programs.

These questions are designed to provide information to parents to help them identify and access quality services and support resources. By adapting the critical questions for parents to online therapy for teens, the value is shifted to this arena.

Questions for Providers about Online Therapy for Teens

Following through with the adaptation, here is a list of questions for parents to ask:

  • Is your online service both easy-to-use and HIPAA-compliant (confidential)?
  • Do you have experience working with teenagers online?
  • What is your therapeutic approach, and is it adapted for virtual challenges?
  • If you are not a physician, do you work and consult with doctors?
  • If my teenager needs medication, what happens next?
  • Have you successfully treated other teenagers with my child’s challenges?
  • If we cannot meet in person, how will you keep me informed of the progress?
  • How long does treatment typically take, and can you provide a timeline?
  • What should I do if there is a crisis between treatment sessions?
  • How can I support the treatment process in my home?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a detailed guide to help families facing this challenge. The SAMHSA Family Guide to Systems of Care for Children With Mental Health Needs is available as a PDF download in both English and Spanish. Comprehensive in nature, this guide supports the process.

The Future of Online Therapy for Teens

Without a doubt, we are entering a brave new world and given the recent pandemic, online therapy for teens is here to stay. As a result, parents should embrace therapy’s shift to a modern technological reality. It is important to take advantage of this new option to provide professional guidance for teenagers in need of mental health support.

 

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