MRC Student Transitions to Teletherapy During Pandemic
In the below question and answer session, Rehabilitation Counseling student Maria Chavarria describes her experience in providing teletherapy in her internship with community-based organization Project Search during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Please share a little bit about the services you provide through your internship with Project Search.
The focus of my internship with Project Search is to provide job coaching and employment services for high school students with disabilities. As a job coach, I teach them proper workplace etiquette and how to interview, as well as soft and on-site skills. Additionally, I coach, train, and supervise the students to help them increase their work performance and ensure that tasks are completed.
How did you feel initially about the transition from in-person sessions with your clients to teletherapy?
I have always enjoyed working one-on-one with my clients and providing hands-on assistance during their rotations at the hospital. When we were told that we were going to transition to teletherapy, I was worried about how I was going to provide the necessary job skills for the students. I was also worried about not being able to be there for the students in case they needed to communicate with someone, or if they had a problem. I was also concerned about completing my internship hours in time for my upcoming graduation in the summer.
How did you prepare for the transition?
At Project Search, we are a small team that communicates on a daily basis, and we rely on each other. We discussed what each of our roles would be when changing to teletherapy, and we developed a schedule and created accounts from the platforms that we would be using. I believe that our strong communication and trust in each other helped us to feel confident in asking for help if we needed it. We also instructed the students to have their laptops ready and assisted them with learning about the programs that we would be using.
What was the most challenging aspect of the transition?
The most challenging aspect of the transition was developing a new schedule and getting used to not seeing the students face-to-face. Another challenge was that we needed to come up with different job/work skills that the students could complete at their house. We needed to take into consideration each student’s living situation, and we needed to make sure that all the tasks were feasible for the students.
Do you miss visiting with your clients in person? Is teletherapy something you would consider doing in the future?
I definitively miss visiting my students in person. I prefer working with the students face-to-face and being able to assist them. One thing that I noticed is that by utilizing teletherapy, I needed to re-learn how the students react with the instructions that are given to them and to pay attention to their expressions to determine if they are confused or not.
While I prefer to work with clients in person, I see how teletherapy has allowed for better communication with our students, and the students are learning new computer skills. I would consider working with teletherapy in the future for clients that might have problems transporting, or for those who have an emergency that prevents them from going to their appointment. This would allow us to continue reviewing the clients’ job skills while we accommodate their needs.
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