Does telehealth therapy work for young kids?

By Madeline Sibbing, Psychologist

Many of us are now experts at running virtual meetings and appointments thanks to the COVID pandemic.  Yet equally, for many of us the thought of having to adapt to therapy online still remains  daunting. This has particularly been the case for our families with younger, pre-school aged children, who might be asking: 

Can my child sit and focus online enough for it to be worthwhile? 

Can the psychologist be as effective and engaging online? 


So here are the answers, and some things to think about if you’re weighing up whether to give telehealth therapy a try for your young child. 

  1. PARENT SUPPORT – For very young children, most of our work is focused on supporting parents.  This means that we can continue to provide families with the same frequency of support, just simply doing so online. We can help families identify challenges in the home, establish appropriate strategies to address the challenges AND even observe parents trialling new strategies with their child via telehealth.  Thus, we can coach parents by monitoring and adjusting the strategies over time.
  2. PARENTAL CONSISTENCY – With many parents working from home, this has enabled some parents who would normally be unavailable to now attend sessions. We’ve found this has enabled caregivers to adopt consistent parenting strategies and really target the client’s goals in a focused way. This has led to some incredibly positive results for our clients! 
  3. IT’S FUN! Our psychologists have had a LOOOOOOT of practice by now at running sessions via telehealth. We’ve learned how to adapt games and therapeutic activities electronically, and frequently ‘book-end’ our sessions with a fun round of online games that kids seem to love. (OK we love them too – who doesn’t enjoy a round of Uno to finish up a therapy session?)
  4. RESEARCH SAYS ‘YES’ – Research shows universally that therapy provided via telehealth is AS effective and sometimes even MORE effective with children than face-to-face therapy. Why, you might ask? Well, one way it can be more effective is that sometimes parents expect that the psychologist will jump in and do the work with the young child. Through telehealth, however, the parents are taught and empowered to do the strategies themselves.  As we know, building up the support system around the child is vital in helping that family to function in the best way possible!

So the answer is……YES! Telehealth therapy can absolutely work for young children and their families, We’ve seen it with our own eyes!  It’s just about adapting it to suit each child and their family.

So if you’ve been reluctant up until now – take a leap of faith, and give it a go!

Madeline Sibbing is a Principal Psychologist at the Northern and Hawthorn Centre for Child Development. Madeline holds a Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology from Monash University. Her sixteen years of professional experience has been attained within government and independent schools in assessment, therapeutic interventions and consultation with children, adolescents, parents and teachers. She also developed primary prevention programs, mental health awareness activities and teacher training in a secondary college. Madeline spent several years working as an Educational Psychologist in London, UK, as a Chartered member of the British Psychological Society. She is a registered supervisor with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, supervising Masters of Psychology candidates and newly-registered Psychologists.
Consistently described as an engaging, down-to-earth and knowledgeable therapist, Madeline obtains enormous joy from working with children and young people… as often evidenced by the sounds of laughter and silliness emanating from her therapy room

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *