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Therapy programme could be here to stay

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A virtual therapy programme for young people set up in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis could become a permanent fixture, its creators have said.

Solstice, a psychological and psychiatric treatment centre, developed the Zoom-based Connect Virtual programme so that its young clients would not miss out on sessions because of the pandemic lockdown.

Belinda Henderson, a senior clinical psychology assistant at Solstice and head of the online therapy curriculum, said: “The virtual programme has proved very successful, showing that this modern approach does not appear to limit the opportunities for either clinical observation or participant learning.

“In some essential ways, these are enhanced. It is providing important, rich perspectives and is a lot of fun for the participants.”

Connect Virtual was inspired by Pembroke-based Solstice's social skills and empowerment programme, which features several clubs designed for children and teenagers.

It includes music, visual stimulation and on-screen messages.

Ms Henderson said: “Recognising that the online world is an increasing part of our children's experience, we expose the children to virtual social safety and etiquette, activity, collaboration, competition, and different ways of expressing themselves — in many respects creating their own experiences.”

The virtual programme team also includes Eloïse Pitts Crick, the executive director and senior clinical psychologist at Solstice, and Christopher Jackson, an intern who worked on the technical side of the programme.

Dr Pitts Crick said: “The adolescents are thriving in the virtual environment and are very keen that the virtual groups continue long term. The parents are also requesting this.

“We are seeing excellent clinical results from these interventions.”

But health insurers, in line with Bermuda Health Council guidelines, have only committed to funding online therapy until July 15, which could push the cost up afterwards.

Dr Pitts Crick said: “We are hoping to continue to expand the online groups as long as funding doesn't become an issue.”

She also highlighted new treatment developments, including a computer game approved by the US Food & Drug Administration which was designed to reduce the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

She said: “The online environment is one that our young people are comfortable with and choose to use to socialise on.

“We think this technology should be embraced and be used as an adjunct to regular face to face therapies.”

Mr Jackson said: “Being a teen myself, I have come to value the need for a sense of belonging.”

He added: “At a time where many children feel disconnected from their peers, Solstice's online virtual groups are a great option.”

For more information, e-mail groups@solstice.bm or call 292-3456

Rich perspectives: Belinda Henderson, a senior clinical psychology assistant at Solstice and head of the online therapy curriculum (Photograph supplied)
Clinical results: Eloïse Pitts Crick, the executive director and senior clinical psychologist of Solstice (File photograph)
A great option: Christopher Jackson, an intern at Solstice, worked on the technical side of the programme (Photograph submitted)

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Published July 13, 2020 at 2:38 pm (Updated July 13, 2020 at 2:38 pm)

Therapy programme could be here to stay

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