FOMO: Counseling with Emojis

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Using Emojis and other Fun Techniques during Counseling Sessions with Children & Teens

Counseling children and teens is an art. Let’s face it, there are times it can be quite challenging trying to hold their attention in session, and even more challenging when the session is on video. The coronavirus quarantine forced most of us to conduct sessions with telehealth services, and we have found that it takes even more skill than ever before to have a healthy and constructive session. Here are some tips we’ve found that can help you to have a fun and beneficial session with children and teens. 

Building the Therapeutic Bond

First, children and teens love showing around their treasures and allowing you to take a peek into their world at home during video sessions. My patients are thrilled to show me their artwork, their TikTok videos, and love highlighting other parts of their daily life. I simply allow that to take place. I give them space to share as much as they want to share with me because not only is it fun for them, but we are building a therapeutic bond together as well. Therapeutic rapport is important in every counseling relationship, so take the time to let them show you their world. Show interest in the parts of their room they decide to point out to you, and use that information to explore and dig deeper into their emotions and coping skills. 

Currently I use the Doxy.Me portal for my telehealth sessions and it has a wonderful chat function included where I can send a message to my patients any time before or during the session. I’ve discovered if they are accessing their telehealth session through a smartphone or smart device, such as a tablet, they have the option to use their emojis on their keyboard and they can post emojis in the chat box throughout the session. Now these are not just random emojis that you want them to input in the chat box, instead they are more of a prompted emoji technique that you can leverage. 

Using Emojis to Learn Emotions

As an example, I was teaching an 8 year old patient how to use words to help her to understand and express the 5 basic emotions (joy, fear, sadness, disgust, and anger). We reviewed the words together and I asked her to place an emoji in the chat box that best described how she was feeling in the present moment. Sometimes it can be difficult for children and teens to express how they are feeling and its easy for them to bottle it up because they simply do not know how to better express verbally how they feel. Therefore, practicing using the emojis in the chat box can help teach children their 5 basic emotions. It is a fun and effective technique to try during your telehealth sessions.

Music is also great technique to use during telehealth. After exploring the 5 basic emotions, ask the patient to let you listen to the songs they listen to when they are sad or happy. Ask them about the lyrics and what stands out to them. Find out if they have ever created their own personal lyrics before. If they could create their own song, what would those lyrics say? How would those lyrics make them feel?

Adding a Laugh with Memes

Laugher is a technique to use when teaching clients how to reframe their thinking patterns. Laughter teaches humility, helps lift their mood, and instantly puts them in a different state if used appropriately. One of the activities I would use for laughter is to have them to show me the funniest meme they have seen on social media lately. I’ll then ask them to pick out the meme’s that are most meaningful to them and keep a screenshot of the meme on their phone so they can always refer back to it when they need a little laugh.

Social Media exploration is another great way to tap into the world of your patient, especially your teens. If they have a social media profile, tell them that you’d love to see what they post to their friends. I’ve had patients show me their TikTok performances and they have so much fun showing their dance moves. Most adults are even using TikTok these days, so just explore it a bit. Have a laugh with them. You may even notice the conversation taking you to a whole new conversation. Perhaps they share with you how they compare themselves to others, or how certain posts make them angry. Use the information they give you and dig deeper into the meaning. 

Finally, let them show you their pets. Pets are adored and often talked about in therapy sessions. Pets are fun and comforting members of the family. I have noticed when you ask them to show you their pet family member, it changes their mood. I have observed the patient becomes less fearful during the session and opens up more when their pet is in the room with them.

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