The struggles and pressures of life can affect children and young people just as much as the adults around them, so it can be invaluable for a child to have someone to talk to outside of their family and friends. Someone who can listen to them and support them through the difficulties they might be facing.
Counselling can be a wonderful place for young people to explore and understand their own thoughts, feelings and behaviours, whilst also learning new skills for managing their emotions and reducing stress. It's also a great opportunity to work with a friendly, supportive professional in a private and safe space. But can online therapy work, or does it need to be in-person in order for a child to feel the full benefit of that special relationship?
What are the benefits of online counselling?
For many young people, speaking to a counsellor in person can feel like a daunting task and recent research suggests that more and more young people are now accessing counselling online. So, why is online counselling a great option for young people?
1. Online therapy improves accessibility
One of the draws of online counselling is how accessible it is. As long as you have a computer, laptop or tablet, you'll usually be able to access a counsellor online. This is great news for those in remote settings, or places where there's a lack of counselling services for children and young people.
Support online is usually more immediate as waiting lists can be shorter or non-existent, so the child can access support as soon as they need it. There's also access to a broader range of therapists online with a range of specialities and experience who are all trained to engage with and support children online. This makes it much easier to find just the right counsellor for each specific child.
2. Online therapy feels more familiar
Another benefit of online counselling is that there's a familiarity to it. A young person is able to have counselling sessions from the privacy and comfort of their own home or school. This can mean that they feel more at ease and relaxed, minimising the nervousness they might be feeling. As long as there is a private space they can use, the child doesn't need to overcome the barrier of going to a new and unfamiliar place. It also means that if they are unsure about telling friends or peers about counselling, it can remain for them.
Having the freedom to join sessions from somewhere already familiar and comfortable, can also mean that when they learn new skills for managing their emotions, they are more able to implement these skills into their daily lives. There is less of a disconnect between the counselling session and the rest of their life when counselling is taking place in a familiar setting
3. Online therapy is more engaging
There is also a familiarity that young people have with technology. Rather than it being a barrier for them, it can actually be an easier way for some children to engage. Children and young people are mostly very comfortable and at ease with technology and like to find new ways to use it. In the context of counselling, this can mean they feel more relaxed and more open as they’re used to communicating with others online.
4. Online therapy is more flexible
For many families, life can feel incredibly busy. Parents are often balancing work and childcare whilst also managing their children’s leisure time and social lives. This can make it difficult to consistently make and attend appointments. The benefit of online counselling is that it can be very flexible and easy to schedule.
Parents are able to find evening and weekend appointments to work around their busy lifestyle, as well as reducing the time, energy and money spent on travelling to and from sessions. They can also keep the consistency of sessions for their child through the school holidays, even having sessions from their holiday location if needed.
5. Online therapy meets the needs of the individual child
For some children, online counselling can be more suitable than face-to-face. This is especially true for young people who struggle to express themselves or are nervous meeting new people. At Mable we have a wide range of ways children can engage with sessions and express themselves. We have video, text chat and audio-only settings to help them feel more comfortable. Our creative canvas has a range of age-appropriate resources and activities, and the interactive games too.
Whilst being a great option for many young people, it’s important to recognise that online counselling doesn’t suit every child or every problem they might be facing. Perhaps they struggle to communicate online or they need a more physical style of counselling (such as working with bodily sensations). In these circumstances, the child can try a consultation session online, and if it doesn't work for them, the counsellor will help make recommendations about next steps.
As a counsellor, I love working with children and young people online. I love providing them with a private space to express and understand their experiences better where we can speak, listen and share as if we were in the same room.
Beth Passmore has been a Mable online counsellor for nearly three years. If you think your child would benefit from counselling with Beth, or one of our many experienced therapists in our counselling team why not take a look at our counselling directory or get in touch with us and we'd be happy to talk it through.