Zoom Fatigue, It’s Real

How to Keep Children and Teens Engaged in Online Therapy

Laura Dessauer, Ed.D., ATR-BC

You’ve likely mastered the use of online therapy platforms after over a year in the pandemic. However, it’s also probably been a challenge keeping your clients engaged—especially your clients that are children and teens. At this point you’re pretty burnt out with online therapy. So how can you reengage and deepen the clinical work you are doing online?

  1. Bring in the pets: If you haven’t had a chance to get to know the household pets, now is a good time to do so! Find out more about their pet’s personalities, and if they are similar to or different from the other family members. Use the pet to gauge the mood of the child or teen that you are working with. Ask them how their pet would react if they were feeling the same emotion as they are right now. Would their tail be twitching, would they be purring? Do they want to sleep on the keyboard or hide under the desk?

  2. Show me your favorite: Ask your clients to show you their favorite things to build more connection and rapport. What is their favorite toy they play with every day? What is their favorite piece of art they have ever created? What do they really like about their bedroom? What is the best meal that their family makes? What is their favorite thing about themselves?

  3. Ask big questions: Use questions that your clients can’t answer with a simple “Yes” or “No” to show your interest in them and their perspective on the world. Ask them to explore what their future self might say to them if they were with them now. Have your clients describe what they can see, feel, touch, taste, and hear within the space they are sitting. If they could have a “do-over” and change one thing in their life, what would that be? Then listen and create space for more discovery and exploration.

  4. Let’s play a game: Another way to re-engage your child and adolescent clients is to by show interest in their favorite games. Find out about their favorite games—whether they are video games, board games, or simply playing make-believe—and use them as an opportunity to explore clinical issues. Are any of their family members similar to or different from their favorite characters from the game? If they could have special skills or powers what would they be, and why? What happens when they don’t win or have to stop playing the game before they are finished? How does that feel and what could they do differently to change that feeling or outcome?

  5. If your feelings were a dance: Moving the body is a powerful tool to get help your clients get grounded if they are struggling with overwhelming emotions. Teach your client’s some CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) skills by dancing so they can learn how to change what they are doing to change their mood. Have them rate their mood on a scale of 1-10 both before and after they dance to encourage self-reflection.

  6. Break out the art supplies: If it seems like you’ve exhausted all words and talking topics, bring in art for personal exploration using the right side of the brain. Dive into feelings, visualizations, rhythm, intuition, and creativity and open up a whole new dimension of therapeutic exploration with your clients. Not sure where to start with art activities? My newest resource, Art Therapy Card Deck for Children and Adolescents: 50 Therapeutic Interventions for Challenging Clients Who Shut Down, Meltdown, or Act Out, provides simple prompts to help your client explore core issues around safety, control, responsibility, self-esteem, and connection.

    Each card features a picture of the completed project as well as straight-forward instructions to help guide your client. The cards also feature exploration questions to help you dive deeper with your clients and truly dissect the meaning and motivation behind the work they have created. There are 50 art interventions to choose from, so you are guaranteed to find something for even the most challenging of your clients.

Get 50 Strategies for Art Therapy!
Art Therapy Card Deck
Sometimes words aren’t enough. Art therapy allows for processing and externalization of emotions, explorations of choices, and reflection on conflicts. This deck can help children and adolescents to develop a growth mindset, increase their frustration tolerance, and strengthen their communication skills to reach their goals.

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Meet the Expert:
Laura Dessauer, Ed.D, ATR-BC, is a board certified art therapist with a doctoral degree in counseling psychology working with families for 25+ years in over 21 school districts. Dr. Dessauer’s work has been included in Parent’s Magazine, eHow Parenting, YourTango, FoxNews, PBS “This Emotional Life”, Lifetime Network, Working Mother, and Psychology Today. Dr. Dessauer is a contributing author of “Healing with Art and Soul: Engaging One’s Self Through Art Modalities” (Cambridge Scholars, 2009). She has presented at the Eighteenth Annual National Expressive Therapy Conference, National American Art Therapy Association 40th Anniversary Conference, and American Art Therapy Association Institute for Creative Education in Art Therapy (ICE/AT), and has created international online training courses for therapists.

Dr. Dessauer is passionate about helping families develop creative ways to confidently communicate and creatively connect. In her private practice she specializes in working with children who shutdown, meltdown and act out. She playfully blends cognitive behavioral skills, art-making, and creative problem solving to help clients create individualized social, emotional, and behaviors interventions that “stick to their brain”. She has created a relaxation CD, “The Creativity Queen’s Superfabulicious Self-Soothing CD”, and therapeutic coloring book, “The Creativity Queen’s Superfabulicious Colorific Adventure Book” for her clients. Her business, the Creativity Queen, LLC, was the winner of the 2007 Small Business of the Year Award (SCORE).

Learn more about their educational products, including upcoming live seminars, by clicking here.

Topic: Children & Adolescents

Tags: Art Therapy | Children | Teens | Telehealth | Therapy Tools

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