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Online Therapy and Schools

Parent work:

Parents and carers have been referred to the Bridge Clinician in schools during weekly meetings with key pastoral staff and Senior Leadership Team members . This enables the team to think about which parents might be struggling, and what support might be needed. Bridge Clinicians have been able to support parents with managing their role as a home-educator; with thinking about difficult family dynamics and how they can be managed during the pandemic and lockdown measures; ideas and strategies to manage different aged children within the same household; resolving sibling conflict; contact arrangements for separated parents; and strategies to help parents manage their own fears and anxieties.  This work has transferred smoothly into online and telephone support, with the flexibility of these platforms allowing for timely access to support for some distressed members of the school community.

Examples: these are amalgamations of cases and names have been changed:

Steph had been struggling with lockdown as a single parent with several young children in the house. It was hard to manage all their needs, especially when older children would normally have been attending school. She had spoken to the school about her difficulties, which was affecting her relationship with one child in particular. She spoke a with a Bridge Clinician on the telephone weekly for 3 sessions, and then fortnightly for a further three. This gave them a chance to explore the family history which may have been contributing to difficulties, and to generate some strategies. Steph said that she felt very supported by the school in giving her this space to think with a therapist.

Bob and Theresa had been seen monthly in school for parent consultation work, regarding two children in their care. This work transferred successfully to online and then telephone support, and will continue until the end of the academic year. Issues being addressed are around some of the dynamics in the family, and the ways in which each child expresses their feelings differently and needs a slightly different approach. They have thought with the Bridge Clinician about different tactics to engage the children in thinking about feelings.

Staff Supervision:

Supervision used to happen within different schools in  a variety of ways, both individually and in groups. It has also been a space to explore dynamics within classes, and within the school itself. This work has transferred successfully to online in many schools, with teachers reporting how beneficial and supportive it has felt to have a forum to think about some of the very challenging issues around lockdown, and about the return to school. Individual supervision and consultation has happened with individual staff online, and has been a space to think about the interaction between personal issues and work, or to focus on a particular child or group of children and what their challenges during this time might be.

Example: these are amalgamations of cases and names have been changed.

Megan had been finding her year  class quite hard to manage before lockdown. Supervision was a chance to think about the deprivation and social issues that many members of her class face, and together with a Bridge Clinician she was able to develop some ideas about how this might affect them both during lockdown and when they eventually return to school. Providing supervision in this way has meant continued provision even when teachers are not in  school. Going  forwards, online supervision is a flexible way of providing a service that means teachers don’t need to be in school at the same time, or if they are in school then in the same room at the same time.

“ I quite enjoy it on zoom. I would rather be face to face, but away from school is better. In school there’s a constant reminder of other pressures. It’s more protected time, in my own head as well as the environment. It’s safer in a way, I feel more comfortable.” Staff member.

Individual child therapy/family therapy:

In cases where the parent agrees, and the child can manage, individual therapy has transferred to online therapy to enable to therapy to continue whilst not in school. In cases where the child is not able to manage alone the work has become dyadic, with the parent or carer becoming part of the therapeutic work. Individual sessions can retain many of the ways of working as face-to-face; the child may choose a selection of toys to use each week, drawing and art work can be used and shared, and the therapist can focus on the play and the relationship in much the same way. There are advantages to this way of working, as it has allowed continuity of therapy  at a time when this would not normally have been possible. It can also encourage different aspects of the work to come to the fore, with clinicians reporting that some children feel more able to express difficult feelings in this medium. There is also, by necessity, an increased level of contact and co-working with parents with online work, as parents need to help facilitate the technology and talk through the process frequently with the therapist.

Example: Tony is a new 9 year old client referred as  close family member has a serious illness. His family reported that he finds it hard to talk about his feelings with them.  He has been working  using a video link. The work has been rewarding and sustainable. Despite not sharing a physical space, he has been able to build a trusting relationship with his therapist, in which he has shared his inner world and started to make sense of overwhelming feelings. The breadth of therapy seems unaltered, Tony seems confident to communicate through play, movement and art materials, using the screen as his frame of reference with his therapist in a positive and dynamic way.

“ It feels good working on my laptop with being able to see you. I prefer this because I’m on my tablet and I’m at home, and I can still do it even if I’m ill, but not too ill. It’s safer because you can’t give each other bugs “ year 6 child

“Bridge in Schools has been an incredibly valuable resource for us to be able to draw upon in school. Having a counsellor in school each week has meant that we have been able to offer bespoke support to some of our most vulnerable children, their families and the wider community. Hugely positive and trusting relationships have been formed by all those involved and the result has been that our children’s emotional and mental wellbeing has improved. The service is incredibly professional, with individuals working alongside the existing staff in school to improve the provision available to our vulnerable children. We cannot recommend them highly enough.” Senior Leadership Team member