We are living in uncertain times and some families are probably pretty anxious about spreading germs or being in public but would also like to have the support play therapy offers. I want to responsibly keep my distance and also provide therapy to families who need it. Many traditional talk therapists are going to telehealth, but I know parents are saying "but isn't the PLAY central to PLAY therapy? I don't think my kid will just sit and talk." I get it. Play IS central to our work, and I'm so glad you value it.
The truth is that the relationship is the most important part of any therapy, no matter what the method, population, or age. Play is the way that we often build the relationship, and play is the language children use to communicate. In my play room I do a lot of child-centered play therapy, which means I allow the child to choose what they want to play and then to lead that play. Giving kids a sense of power and control is an important part of the process, and one that I want to continue to foster.
The good news is there are lots of ways to play, including online. In the play therapy room I might be validating a teddy bear's feelings, but I can just as easily validate Steve's feelings in a game of Minecraft. I might observe and reflect on how a child pretends to nurture a baby animal in the play room, but we can just as easily do that with a virtual animal. In the play room we might discuss sportsmanship over a game of Uno, but we can do that online as well. How are we going to do all this, you ask? Well, that's a good question, and one I've been working hard on.
I have had the trainings that Georgia requires to be able to facilitate online sessions, and have already been using the technology to do so. I'm now expanding that to offer online telehealth (HIPAA compliant video chat) sessions specifically for play therapy. My system, Simple Practice, has a telehealth platform that emails you a link to join me in a secure video chat session at our appointment time, and most insurance companies cover this at the same rates they cover face to face therapy.
For my younger kids, I will have some toys and activities for us to do from a distance. Maybe they talk to my puppets, or their stuffed animal at home talks to my stuffed animals via the screen. I also have plenty of plastic animals, people, and dinosaur figures. We can each draw and show each other our drawings, build collaboratively with legos, play Simon Says, Mother May I, or Follow the Leader. We might practice deep breathing or some yoga moves together through the screen.
I also now have a virtual play therapy room, so they can play along with me from home. You can preview the virtual play therapy room below, and you'll notice most of the items link to a separate game or activity. Parents, please review these links and external websites before our sessions to make sure you approve. The first room is the play room, and is going to be most interesting to younger kids. If you click the arrows on the bottom left you can also visit the art room, reading room, and game room.
If your child is interested in doing online sessions, let me know via email in advance. We'll switch their session to telehealth and an email will automatically be generated 10 minutes before the session to invite you to our session. If you're on a laptop, all you need to do is click the link to begin. If you're wanting to use a phone, you'll want to download the Telehealth by SimplePractice app before we begin. If you want to create a split screen, you can download the Resize Tab extension for chrome, though some kids don't care if they can see me or not, they'll be engrossed in the game and won't care that I'm on a different tab. They'll be able to hear me as long as the volume on your device is turned up. This is going to take some getting used to, but we can spend some time talking about how hard it is sometimes to be flexible. Support can come in lots of different forms, and we're going to make sure your family still gets the support you need.
Update: I have created social stories for kids going back to school in the classroom setting and for kids going back via distance learning. You can download either for free by clicking on the download button(s) below.
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