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The flexibility associated with internet therapy for adolescents can improve the counseling process. Credit:

The flexibility associated with internet therapy for adolescents can improve the counseling process. Credit:

I have been doing teletherapy with teens (also called online teen therapy, telehealth counseling, teletherapy, videoconferencing sessions, and internet counseling) since the middle of 2010.  For the most part it has been very successful.

I have worked with clients who are facing a variety of struggles.  I have seen a client who has dealt with addiction, and wanted to work with someone who had plenty of addiction experience.  It took time, but working with addiction often does.  Meeting through an online platform did not seem to hinder the counseling process.

I have worked with eating disordered clients through telehealth as well.  Teen online counseling with clients who are struggling with their body image has been mostly good.  We are still able to address the various feelings they have about how they look, the distortions they have when it comes to viewing their body, and the negative thoughts that occur during struggles with anorexia and bulimia.  The drawback in this situation is sometimes family therapy is needed in cases of eating disordered treatment, and this can be more of a struggle with internet sessions.  It isn’t impossible by any means, but it is more challenging.

Clients who also have elected to do treatment through teletherapy are those struggling with anxiety and OCD.  This format works wonderfully for these clients.  Part of the reason I’d say I almost prefer it is that the sessions can be easily conducted anywhere.  The cornerstone of overcoming anxiety and anxiety-related disorders (like OCD) is to face the feared situations.  Your teenager is taught how to cope during the anxiety provoking situation, and then we start the process of them facing the situation head-on.  Let’s use OCD as an example.  If your teen fears “contaminated” objects such as the kitchen trash can, your teenager can take their laptop into the kitchen to face the feared object during their counseling session.  As a therapist, this is ideal.  We try to replicate the feared stimulus in the therapy office, but it’s never as good as the real thing.

There is a place for internet therapy for teenagers.  It isn’t right for every situation, but it is more effective than you might first think it would be.  It’s an option worth looking into, especially when meeting the therapist face to face either isn’t pragmatic, or isn’t the best way to confront the problem.  I’ve had clients who live well out of the area.  We’ve met entirely through internet counseling sessions since day one.  It’s worked very well for them.  In some of those particular situations they’ve lived in small towns.  They didn’t feel confident they could find a therapist who specializes in working with teenagers locally.  They were glad to know there was still an option to get the high quality help they needed.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT