During the coronavirus pandemic, many things that used to happen in-person have shifted to online platforms such as Zoom. For teens, that includes school, birthday parties, get-togethers, and yes – therapy.
So, in this virtual world, how do therapists ensure teens make it to their virtual therapy sessions?
One of our clinicians developed a system, put it in place – and it worked.
Our virtual therapy programs now have a 95 percent attendance rate.
Want to learn how we did it?
Our secret is simple: hold teens accountable.
At the start of every group session, the clinician checks to see if anyone is missing. If a patient hasn’t shown up within four minutes of the start of the session, the clinician doesn’t continue the group. Instead, the absent teen receives a call on their personal cell phone asking where they are. If they don’t answer, their parents receive a call. If the parents can’t be reached, the clinician asks the rest of the group to get in touch with the teen. This system works: rarely does a teen like being called out in public for skipping a session.
The trick is to make attending easier than not attending.
Staff make it very easy for clients to attend sessions by planning in advance. Every Friday, teens receive a comprehensive schedule with the Zoom links for every single session taking place the following week. This way, there’s no last-minute scrambling to find a Zoom link minutes before a session starts.
Of course, there was a learning curve as clients got used to Zoom. But before long, everyone got the hang of it.
Our clinicians open virtual rooms for sessions about five minutes before the start time. Typically, within about five minutes, every teen pops up on the screen, ready for the group session.
That still happens, weeks later.
What to do About Missed Sessions or Tardiness
Of course, teens still miss sessions.
They oversleep. They have Internet issues. Or they may miss a session because they’re in crisis and don’t want to log on and have everyone see them crying. Whatever the issue is, we find a way to resolve it – because it’s in everyone’s best interest.
Typically, a personal phone call to the client or their parents is a quick and efficient fix.
The built-in accountability teaches them an important lesson. Because the same thing would happen in online school – or at a future job. In online school or the workplace, though, poor attendance and lateness have consequences that could impact their future.
We try to create a safe space, while at the same time teaching them the meaning of responsibility and accountability.
We plan to continue to lean into the accountability tactic because a 95 percent attendance rate is – to put it mildly – 100 percent amazing.
Ask any teacher or counselor you know if they have similar success. If they do, then good on them. And if they don’t – show them this article, or tell them about our techniques, because they work.