How Do You Use the Interoception Curriculum in a Telehealth Model or in Tele-sessions?
We’ve been hearing from people who have been using the curriculum in telehealth sessions, and it’s been going well for them. They’re having a lot of fun with their learners! If you’re reading this and are just making the transition over into telehealth, hopefully the tips that we’ve put together in this blog post will be very helpful to you.
I’ll go over the tips in this blog post, but I also have more details in a free document that I’ve prepared for you. This document is filled with tips and tricks about how to use the curriculum in a telehealth setting. You can find that document on my website at https://www.kelly-mahler.com/printable-resources/
Tips for Using The Interoception Curriculum in a Telehealth Session
Tip #1 is, of course, prepare for your session.
You’re going to have to get creative, look through the lesson plan, and pick and choose the items that will be successful in a telehealth setting. For most of the lessons, the full lesson is doable in a virtual telehealth situation, but you have to especially look through the focus area experiments and think about which experiments are doable, and which aren’t, given your certain learner.
Some learners will have a caregiver present. And if that caregiver is willing, you can ask them to gather some of the materials needed for the focus area experiments ahead of time. Many of these materials are household materials and everyday objects that you may have lying around the house, such as:
- a container of warm water
- a container of cold water
- ice cubes
If the caregiver is willing, have them gather these objects ahead of time. But a caregiver may not always be present for many different reasons, and if that’s the case, that’s okay. Just think through the focus area experiments and consider which experiments can you do without any materials on the other end.
For example, you can try an experiment for a lesson on hands and all the different ways your hands can feel. You can start by holding a hand warmer. If that material is not available to you, then you can consider creating a different experiment that will evoke a similar sensation within the hand. When someone’s holding a hand warmer, maybe they’re experiencing a warm feeling hand, or maybe it’s a moist feeling or a sweaty feeling.
A different way that you can get that sensation without any special material is doing “ha” breaths into the hand. That can be a focus area experiment that you include in your tele-session for targeting those sensations within the hand. You just have to consider your experiments and make some adaptations as need be.
If you’re struggling to come up with some alternative focus area experiments, we have Interoception Activity Cards – 170 of them. They’re all focus area experiments that require no special material, so they’re very ideal for this telehealth setting.
Tip #2 is involving the caregiver whenever possible.
Not only does the caregiver serve as another set of hands on the opposite side of the screen, but through having the caregiver participate in your session, you’re translating skills and building IA to the caregiver so that they can carry it out in between your tele-sessions. Like I said before, it’s not always possible to have the caregiver present, and that’s okay.
Tip #3 is to use visual supports in your session.
For those of you that are familiar with the Interoception Curriculum, visual support is a big piece of it, and for many different reasons.
- How will you project through screen-sharing a descriptor menu that is supporting the lesson that you’re on? Maybe you’re going to project the focus area experiments, or a list of them.
- How are you going to project a body check? You can make a PowerPoint slide with a little body check form.
We have pictures of how to do all of these different visual supports in the document that I referred to in the beginning of this blog post. Again, you can find that on my website at https://www.kelly-mahler.com/printable-resources/ It’s completely free. We want you to have as much access to this support as possible.
Make sure you are thinking through your visual supports and how you will project them on the screen via screen-sharing during your session, because that is an important part of the curriculum. We give you lots of different and creative ways of doing that in the document that we provided.
Tip #4 is to increase predictability.
Right now, especially in the current state of things, many of us have high levels of anxiety, feel very dysregulated, and know that things are unpredictable, so we need to make sure that our tele-sessions feel predictable.
We can do that by providing a visual schedule at the beginning of each of our sessions, and we can project that on the screen. You can make a schedule in a PowerPoint slide and project that onto the screen at the beginning of the session and throughout the session so that the learner knows what to expect. They also know exactly when the session is over.
Even if a learner is having fun doing all of the work in the curriculum (and many of our learners love all of the activities in the Interoception Curriculum), we still need to keep in mind that even just by nature of socially participating with us and doing a lot of different activities, it can just be taxing – even if it’s fun. Having a very closed end to that task, to know when our session is going to be over, can give the learner an idea of how long they need to persist and spend their energy. It can make things very predictable and make the learners more successful in being with us.
Also, it’s important to preview your next tele-session so you can let them know. For example:
“Next time we meet, we’ll be talking about all the different ways that your nose can feel.”
“…all the different ways that your heart can feel.”
Just so they know what is upcoming.
Tip #5 is to consider all the different methods of positive practice that you can encourage the learner to use in between your tele-sessions.
The easiest method is using IA on the fly, and helping the caregiver understand how to use IA on-the-fly prompts. In each lesson, we provide an IA On the Fly form in the downloadable instructional materials that you can use to guide your caregiver education and then follow up by emailing the form to them. It can be helpful to help caregivers learn to “talk the Interoception talk” during daily activities, nurture their learner’s ability to notice, and understand their body signals during these daily activities.
Another great practice strategy is our Focus Area Experiments. The caregiver could even repeat the experiments that you do during your tele-session and give their learner more practice, or they can use naturally-occurring Focus Area Experiments. We do so many different things throughout our days that evoke stronger feelings within different body parts, and they are amazing times. They’re amazing opportunities to use IA on-the-fly prompts to help the learner notice and describe sensations within their body.
If you want a list of these naturally occurring Focus Area Experiments, you can also find those under our resource section for free, under “Printables”. It’s called Interoception Daily Activity List. That would be a great thing to share with the caregivers and learners that you’re supporting. https://www.kelly-mahler.com/printable-resources/
And then finally, we have Body Checks. If the learner or the caregiver is looking for more ways to practice building IA in between your tele-sessions, they can, of course, complete body checks. They might not look like our standard body check when we have the laminated file folder. We can get more creative.
We have some ideas on the document that we put together for you. Some of these ideas, you can just complete a body check on a wipe-off board or on a piece of paper. We have pictures of different ways that you can adapt the body check on that form.
Tip #6 is all about regulation, self-care and realistic expectations during this time.
This is important for all of us, especially those of us who are feeling dysregulated and experiencing changes in our routine. It’s especially important that we set very small goals for ourselves. This applies to therapists, professionals, and caregivers alike, but especially the learners. Even if our learner makes it through five minutes of a tele-session, that is a major accomplishment. It’s important to set our expectations small and celebrate the milestones and the accomplishments that we are all achieving during this time.
I understand that this blog post contains a lot of information. Please feel free to reach out, share your experiences, and offer any tips you may want to share with others. I hope that you enjoy all the free resources that we’re trying to support you with.
Until next time.
View the Interoception Curriculum here.