The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically shifted how professionals have provided mental health services across various settings. The practice of telehealth has replaced in-person service delivery at an increasing rate. The process of rapport-building in fostering the therapeutic alliance with clients has often been viewed as a challenge. The aspect of providing services through telehealth has further exacerbated this problem. At the same time, certain aspects of telehealth therapy have allowed more people to access services. “Telehealth is a viable option for addressing rural mental healthcare needs as it enables more effective care management, provides expanded access to services, and fosters integrating primary and mental healthcare services” (Myers, 2018). However, many individuals in the United States have faced digital barriers with telehealth, including those from racial/ethnic minority backgrounds, limited health literacy, and limited English proficiency (Nouri et al., 2020). Socioeconomic disparities have led to a challenge in receiving telehealth-based mental health services. COVID-19 has significantly impacted school-aged children who have been forced to adapt to remote learning across the world. Throughout the pandemic in-school services provided to children have transitioned to telehealth modules, such as speech/language, occupational, physical, and counseling therapy sessions. Many students do not have remote access to the technology necessary to receive these services effectively. The services are often not being provided or not effectively delivered due to various challenges, e.g., lack of computer-access, unreliable Wi-Fi, lack of privacy in the home, interruptions during a session, lack of adult support in the room for behavioral management and support. Given these challenges, telehealth rapport-building for professionals has become an increasingly difficult task to accomplish. The purpose of this presentation is to present research on effective telehealth practices with various populations and current platforms used to mitigate care barriers. The information provided will be geared toward any practitioner who engages in telehealth service delivery, particularly with children and adolescents. This presentation will deliver information on what rapport is and how it is built, why rapport-building is a necessary aspect of professional practice, and how rapport-building has changed with the shift to telehealth service delivery since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of this presentation, participants will understand why and how practitioners can develop telehealth-focused rapport-building strategies for their school-aged clients and the implications for their practice within a variety of settings. Each participant will receive a handout with practical guidance for how to incorporate strategies for rapport-building and maintaining sustained engagement in telehealth service delivery for children and adolescents.
- Define rapport within telehealth and identify how it is built
- Discuss and understand why practitioners should develop telehealth-focused rapport-building strategies for their school-aged clients
- Identify and incorporate strategies for rapport-building in their telehealth delivery for children and adolescents to improve therapeutic alliance