Teletherapy has been an emerging practice area for many years, that has truly been at the forefront of providing services since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many individuals can benefit from teletherapy services, and most aspects of teletherapy are not much different from traditional sessions, even if sessions appear to look a little differently. It is important to keep in mind, Teletherapy isn’t a suitable option for all clients so it's vital to use your clinical judgment when assesses to see if it's clinically appropriate to treat any given client via Teletherapy. With that said, I do think it's important to highlight a few of the benefits Teletherapy has to offer including providing our profession with such wonderful opportunities to increase access to care for families who A). do not feel comfortable resuming in-clinic sessions, B). clients and/or family members who are currently sick or have been potentially exposed to various illnesses, C). clients that are not appropriate to come into the clinic at this time due to failure with following safety protocols and social distancing measures. In addition, it has allowed us to really see our clients and their families in their natural context and environment and provides us with critical teaching opportunities to educate families and/or caregivers in real-time, which may furthermore instill confidence in our families ability to implement and carryover skills learning during sessions into their daily life.
I thought it would be helpful to include a few tips I’ve learned along the way while navigating this novel practice area. I am in no way claiming to know everything about Teletherapy and am continuing to learn new things every day in regards to telehealth. My hope is to simply provide information that can help serve as a guide for other OTs out there who are starting out working via Teletherapy or for those who are interested in pursuing a job in Teletherapy. So without further ado, here are a few things I wish someone would have taught me starting out doing Teletherapy.
Give yourself grace and be prepared to have sessions not go as planned. Sometimes you will have a perfectly planned out treatment session and things just don’t work out as planned for a number of reasons (i.e. decreased attention or poor activity tolerance, preference of a different task/activity, screen sharing issues, etc.). You have to remember, it's OKAY. The key is to be flexible (just like we tell our kiddos) and have several back up plans lined up for when things don’t go according to plan. And trust me, sessions will not go according to the plan sometimes, it just happens.
CREATIVITY is key! Since sessions are held virtually, you have to be very creative with what limited resources are easily available.
Transparency is so important, especially if this is your first time doing teletherapy sessions or (virtually) meeting with a family. It’s okay to let families know this is something novel for you and that it’s going to be a learning curve. You need to be okay with being a little uncomfortable. Chances are, this treatment approach is new and different for families as well. You’re all in this together and it's important to remember, both you and the family have the child’s best interests at heart!
It’s important to set boundaries and let your families and clients know your expectations for the sessions.
Prior to the first session with my client and their family, I sent over a little introductory email that includes a handout I made with various questions to help gather more information about my client and their family. This is not only going to ensure you are respecting and establishing boundaries of their space/home, but it will also assist you when it comes to treatment planning, being able to utilize all spaces within the home to really engage the child in novel, playful tasks to develop various skill sets, create a space that provides the child with the support they need, and utilize affordances of what the family has available (which is particularly important during these times). I’ve included the handout that I provide to all my virtual families below for anyone interested!
There are so many free and fantastic websites that are easily accessible. Seriously, there is a website for anything and everything, from classic games like Uno, Connect four, and checkers to activities that help improve visual motor integration. I've included a few of my favorite websites I use on a daily basis with my kiddos.
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