Up until a few months ago, telehealth/teletherapy was largely a mystery to most occupational/speech-language pathology therapists. Now, the onset of COVID-19 made it so that many therapists have at least tried their hand at providing services virtually. However, the mechanisms behind teletherapy (especially effective teletherapy) continue to be rather elusive to those who lack pre-COVID experience in this practice area. In this article, we will debunk the top 3 myths about teletherapy so you can differentiate between fact and fiction to get started on the road to making a difference in the world of virtual occupational therapy or speech language pathology.
Myth #1 – Clients who need hands-on assistance aren’t appropriate for teletherapy
Those of us who work with children know the likelihood of a child never needing tactile assistance is extremely low. That being said, if children who need this type of help aren’t appropriate for teletherapy, there would be essentially no kiddos to treat!
Kids who need hands-on assist during therapy sessions can definitely receive teletherapy. They do best with an “e-helper” (parent, sibling, teacher, caregiver, paraprofessional, etc.) to follow cues from the therapist and facilitate the child’s functional performance. Therapists may choose to explore techniques such as backward chaining, shaping, spaced retrieval and parent coaching through the use of verbal and visual cueing. Personally, in my own private practice I saw some kids soar as they were supported by parents at home during teletherapy sessions.
Myth #2 -All treatment must be on the computer screen
While computers, iPads, tablets, and smartphones present a wonderful opportunity to integrate technology in the treatment process, therapists are by no means limited to only these tools. Manipulatives, a word used to refer to any tangible objects used during therapy, are a key part of teletherapy sessions. The good news is they can be implemented in much the same way as they would during in-person visits.
It helps to send parents a master list of items to have on-hand for use during sessions, or shoot them an email the day of their session to prepare a few choice objects for that day. These items not only improve engagement, but allow children to take brief breaks from on-screen work.
Myth #3 – Therapists must be instructing clients every step of the way
In the clinic, we are used to providing a certain amount of structure to encourage skill development. So it’s understandable that therapists believe the structure of teletherapy must be maximized since the environment is more variable. However, this could not be farther from the truth, since children are in the most natural context for therapy: their home.
Therapists who have trusty e-helpers often allow children to engage in trial-and-error to explore new activities, and become familiar with what has been asked of them. This not only provides children with the opportunity to direct their own learning, but encourages e-helpers to assume the role of a coach to gently ensure for the child’s safety as they perform certain tasks.
Therapists often think that teletherapy is an entirely different animal than regular service delivery. However, once you get some experience in this area, you will find that many aspects of teletherapy are not all that different from in-person work. Teletherapy even allows providers to enhance clinical skills such as creativity, flexibility, and innovation, which ultimately aids in the therapy process.
Having the right tools for success!
One of the most crucial parts of succeeding in the teletherapy world is having the appropriate resources to support your efforts. With your business operating from on-line you will require:
- A Teletherapy platform
- Place for digital charting
- Ability to share notes with your clients
Therabyte is a therapist-owned business tool that assists providers in managing time-consuming paperwork, teletherapy, invoicing, scheduling and a client portal for note sharing. By taking advantage of Therabyte’s comprehensive features, therapists can keep their priorities straight, streamline administrative duties, and place more focus on patient care. Book a live demo today or request a video demo!
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This blog post was written in collaboration with Brittany Ferri, OTR/L, CPRP. In addition to being a telehealth specialist and health writer, Brittany is the founder of Simplicity of Health, LLC where she provides health education and a range of other services for individuals of all ages.