Effectiveness of Online Counselling in the Residential Facility
Counseling, Effectiveness, Online platforms, Psychological safety, Intervention, Residential facility, Digital spaceAbstract
People worldwide became more connected to the digital world when the Covid- 19 pandemic hit in 2019. The digital space became the venue for people to connect to their loved ones. The internet became essential as it helped people to be productive even at home. The Covid-19 pandemic posed a significant challenge to many Filipinos, most notably their mental health. Based on the study conducted by The Borgen Project, the number of calls for mental health assistance has increased along with higher reports of depression and suicidal thoughts. Online psychological consultation is timely and relevant to address the rising issues of mental health of all ages in the Philippines as one of the impacts of the pandemic. Child-caring agencies are highly affected, too. Some child-caring agencies, including CRIBS Foundation Inc., did not allow their volunteers and therapists to go inside the facility and interact with the children. CRIBS has residential-based programs that include two residential facilities for different categories of abandoned babies and young female survivors of sexual abuse. The focus of this study is the New Beginning Program. Girl victim-survivors of sexual abuse ages 7-17 are accommodated in a residential care facility where they are provided with services for healing and recovery and prepare for eventual reintegration with their respective families and communities, independent living arrangement, or other alternative parental care. One of the needed interventions to help these girls process their trauma is psycho-social services. A team of social workers, psychologists, houseparents, and teachers collaborates closely in addressing the psychological issues brought about by the trauma of abuse and other past or environmental experiences of each child. Due to the pandemic, the psychologist conducts online counseling to continue providing this service to the girls. Online counseling became an alternative to continue addressing the psychological need of the girls.
This study focuses on young female survivors of sexually abused ages 7- 17. They are currently staying at the residential facility of the New Beginnings Program of CRIBS Foundation, Inc., located in Antipolo City. This research involves a questionnaire with Likert scale questions and open-ended questions. Most of the respondents were youth when the research was conducted. The study reveals the following: 100% of the respondents have been receiving counseling sessions; providing a secure environment even online while disclosing one’s story added to the psychological safety and comfort to express; empathy truly exists even if the counseling sessions are conducted online based on the outstanding score rated by the participants; trust in the counselor, conducive environment, good internet connection, and proper equipment are factors affecting desire to express or share effortlessly with the psychologist. Poor internet connectivity hinders the online session. Shifting to online counseling as an alternative in providing psychological interventions to the clients of the New Beginners Program of CRIBS Foundation, Inc. during the pandemic is indeed effective. No study has evaluated the effectiveness of online interventions, comparing them with face-to-face counseling interventions.
It is recommended that the children and youth under the care of a residential facility: pay attention during the session and continue sharing stories with the right and trusted people; create plans together for helpful ways to prepare for an online session, and bring art materials or toys during the session; apply helping strategies in dealing with emotions, avoid visiting other websites, and conduct online safety regularly. Counselors/ psychologists are recommended to continue paying close attention to the words and emotions of the client and convince the client that she is being heard and understood; painting, writing, music, or another favorite medium is helping clients to express emotions. For social workers, teachers, and houseparents: provide feedback regularly to monitor the client's progress; keep an open mind when a counselor suggests a different approach; remind the client to focus on sessions and avoid visiting other websites. For non-government organizations: strengthen the programs and services about psychological first aid; provide training on telemental health services to promote effective coping and resiliency. For the Department of Social Welfare and Development: strengthen online mental and psychosocial assistance through social media; encourage professional therapists/social work counselors to volunteer online counseling; promote emergency hotline numbers focusing on psychological first aid. The research results were shared with CRIBS Foundation, Inc. for its continuity and improvement of the services as one of the interventions in case management.