Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen changes to the way we interact in many aspects of life – including how and when we access health care services.
There have been significant increases in the uptake of telehealth, with over three million Australians using telehealth services in April 2020. You may now be able to see your GP via telehealth or ask your physio for advice over the phone.
At Umbo, we have been providing families with online speech and occupational therapy for the last two years. Research shows online therapy can be just as effective as in-person practice, with the technology used as a conduit to enable families to access therapy faster and easier than before.
Most importantly, and particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen families looking for empathy-led services which take into account the child’s unique circumstances and needs, while also using evidence-based practice.
This is why we use the person-centred approach (PCA).
PCA is a well-defined and well-researched clinical framework, pioneered by American psychologist, Carl Rogers. It is an extension of current service delivery models, and includes three core concepts: congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard.
What does that mean? PCA takes into account the goals, motivations and strengths of the focus person (i.e. your child) and their support network. Once a therapist sits down and genuinely listens to clients and families (this is called congruence and empathy), different goals than may have been assumed are often identified (this is unconditional positive regard).
Let’s imagine this in a home environment with your family. Imagine your child has unexplained meltdowns every night at dinner and you are desperate for support from a speech therapist. Following a standard procedure, instead of understanding the impact of your child’s behaviour on your home and family routine, your therapist identifies some issues with sounds, and tells you to work on your ‘s’ sounds for the next few weeks.
While there is merit in the therapist’s work, this doesn’t address the real problem at hand – the one that causes you stress and anxiety each day and makes you dread dinner time. What you want to work on is helping your child through that issue with the therapist’s support. Determining this as an issue and identifying goals utilising a PCA approach will help you achieve this.
In addition, by doing it online, you could have the therapist on the end of the table via an iPad at dinner time so they can observe exactly what is going on and coach you through it. In this way, the therapist is truly brought into your home and family, without inconveniencing your schedule or adding extra work to your already full day. Rather than having to explain the issue to the therapist, they can see it and experience it themselves in real-time and, even better, help you through it in real-time. This is the power of PCA in healthcare in today’s family home.
About Francesca Pinzone
Francesca Pinzone is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of online allied health services provider, Umbo. She is passionate about bringing health services to children in rural communities and removing social inequalities. She has a MA in International Public Health from the University of Sydney, a Graduate Certificate in Social Impact from the University of NSW, and a Bachelor of Science, Nursing from the University of Technology, Sydney.
Francesca has over 12 years of experience working in non-profit organisations and in international development, having previously worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres in Pakistan, UNICEF in India and CanTeen in Australia, and also currently teaches Creating Social Change: From Innovation to Impact at UNSW Sydney with the Centre for Social Impact. She is also a mother of a child who has received speech therapy.