Is Online Therapy the Right Choice for My Kids?

As the world becomes increasingly digital, more and more aspects of life are moving online, and therapy for children is no exception. Online therapy, also known as teletherapy or e-therapy, has become more common in recent years and is only growing in popularity since the pandemic. It can be convenient for busy families to access professional help for their kids without leaving home.

Key takeaways:
  • arrow-right
    Online therapy can be convenient for kids and families to access therapy.
  • arrow-right
    Online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy for many children.
  • arrow-right
    Online therapy has pros and cons, and it may not be the best fit for every family.

Throughout the following paragraphs, we’ll discuss the various benefits and drawbacks of online therapy for your kids.

What is online therapy?

Online therapy involves connecting with a mental health professional over the Internet, typically through video chat software. This can be particularly helpful for families who live in rural areas or have difficulty accessing in-person therapy due to scheduling conflicts or transportation issues. Online therapy can also be more comfortable for children who are nervous about attending in-person sessions. It also provides some flexibility for those undergoing in-person therapy during times when they are not able to access transportation, feel ill, or when they are traveling.

The benefits of online therapy

One of the benefits of online therapy is the flexibility it offers families. There is no need to worry about travel time or childcare during appointments. Additionally, online therapy can be a more affordable option, as there may be fewer overhead costs for the therapist.

Another benefit of online therapy is that it can be just as effective as in-person therapy for many children. Research has shown that online therapy can effectively address various mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems.

Online therapy may also be useful for children who are hesitant to participate in traditional therapy due to stigma or anxiety.

The drawbacks of online therapy

While online therapy can be a great option for some families, it may not be the best fit for everyone. Some children may struggle to engage with a therapist through a screen, particularly if they have difficulty with attention or impulse control. There are more distractions when engaging in therapy online as opposed to in an office, which can be especially trying for children with short attention spans.

Privacy concerns can also be a drawback of online therapy. Despite efforts to ensure secure video conferencing software, it can be challenging to guarantee complete privacy during online sessions. Technical issues can occur, especially for those in rural areas without strong internet connections. Additionally, online therapy might not be covered by insurance like in-person therapy, making it less accessible for some families.

Can kids benefit more from in-person or online therapy?

While online therapy, or teletherapy, has become increasingly popular due to its convenience and accessibility, much debate surrounds its efficacy compared to traditional in-person therapy. While research on this topic is still limited, some studies suggest online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy for kids.

For example, a 2017 review of teletherapy for children and adolescents found that outcomes were generally positive and comparable to traditional therapy for a range of mental health issues. However, it's important to note more research is needed to confirm these findings and determine which types of therapy are best suited for online delivery. A child psychologist specializing in play therapy or even Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, for example, may find that in-person therapy makes more sense for delivering their services.

Online therapy may not be appropriate for all children, particularly those with more severe mental health issues or who require more intensive treatment. It can also be challenging for therapists to build rapport with children and accurately identify nonverbal cues online.

Pros and cons of online therapy

While online therapy has gained popularity as a convenient and accessible option for mental health support for children, it is essential for parents to understand the pros and cons of online therapy for children before making decisions about their child's mental health care. There are advantages and disadvantages to online therapy for children.

Pros of online therapy for children:

There are a variety of benefits that come with engaging in online therapy. Some of these benefits include:

  • Accessibility and convenience. Online therapy eliminates geographical barriers, making it easier for children to access mental health services, especially in areas with limited resources. It also offers greater flexibility in scheduling, allowing sessions to be conducted from the comfort of home.
  • Comfort and familiarity. Some children may feel more at ease communicating with a therapist from their familiar environment, leading to increased openness and engagement during therapy sessions.
  • Enhanced engagement. Online therapy often incorporates interactive tools and activities specifically designed for children, making the sessions more engaging and enjoyable for younger clients.
  • Increased anonymity and reduced stigma. For children who may feel self-conscious about attending therapy in person, online therapy provides a level of anonymity that can reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health support.

Cons of online therapy for children:

While there are many wonderful benefits to be gained from engaging in online therapy, it also comes with its fair share of limitations. Such limitations include:

  • Technical challenges. Poor internet connection or technical glitches may disrupt sessions and hinder effective communication between the child and the therapist. Technical issues can lead to frustration and potential interruptions in the therapeutic process.
  • Limited nonverbal cues. Online therapy may not capture all nonverbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions, as effectively as in-person sessions. These cues can be essential in understanding a child's emotional state and may be missed during online interactions.
  • Potential distractions at home. Online therapy comes with it's own unique set of distractions from parents or other family members, environmental distractions, which may impact the quality of therapy sessions while limiting the child's ability to discuss certain topics or express themselves freely.
  • Not for all cases. Online therapy is not the best option for all mental health concerns. Depending on the nature of a person's symptoms, the severity of symptoms, and other factors surrounding each unique case, it may not be in a person's best interest to engage in online therapy.

Tips for introducing online therapy for children

Should you decide that online therapy is the right choice for your kids, some finesse may be required to introduce the idea to them. Here are some tips for introducing online therapy to your children.

  • Explain the purpose. Approach the topic with openness and honesty. Explain to your child that therapy is a safe space to express feelings, solve problems, and learn coping skills to support their emotional well-being.
  • Emphasize confidentiality. Assure your child that the therapist will keep their conversations confidential unless there is a safety concern. Help them understand the importance of sharing their thoughts and feelings openly during sessions.
  • Address concerns. Encourage your child to ask questions and express any concerns they may have about online therapy. Provide reassurance and address their doubts to alleviate any anxiety or fear they may be experiencing.
  • Set expectations. Discuss the frequency and duration of therapy sessions, as well as any potential changes to routines. Set clear expectations for attendance and participation to establish a sense of structure and commitment.

Making the decision between online and in-person therapy

There is no clear-cut answer for every parent in terms of whether they should put their child in online therapy or in-person therapy. Here are some tips for deciding between the two.

  • Observe persistent challenges. Pay attention to signs such as significant changes in behavior, emotional distress, difficulty in school, or social withdrawal. If these issues persist and interfere with daily functioning, consider seeking professional help.
  • Consult with professionals. Discuss your concerns with your child's pediatrician, school counselor, or mental health professional. They can provide guidance and help determine if therapy is necessary and whether in-person or online sessions would be most suitable.
  • Consider practical factors. Evaluate logistical aspects such as availability, transportation, and time constraints. Online therapy may be a more feasible option if in-person therapy poses significant challenges.
  • Assess your child's comfort level. Consider your child's preferences, temperament, and comfort with technology. Some children may feel more comfortable than others when it comes to therapy. Use this information in your decision-making. Some children may feel more comfortable with the idea of online therapy, while others may like the idea of in-person play therapy or art therapy over talk therapy, whether online or in-person.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue online versus traditional in-person therapy should depend on the individual needs and preferences of the child and their family, and the expertise and experience of the therapist. Online therapy can be a helpful option for families to access mental health support for their children. It provides flexibility, affordability, and accessibility that traditional therapy may not offer. However, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons of online therapy and determine if it's right for your family.

Leave a comment

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


Harold A Maio
prefix 2 months ago
---Online therapy may also be useful for children who are hesitant to participate in traditional therapy due to stigma or anxiety.

We have gone to great lengths to instruct one another "there is a stigma" to mental health issues. I wonder at our purpose and marvel at our success.

Harold A Maio