School psychologists and counsellors provide a critical service supporting students with learning and emotional needs. During COVID-19 restrictions, they had to change the way they provided this service.

Given that there have been seven international health crises over the past 20 years, COVID may not be the last one we face.

It’s important we learn from our experiences during COVID, to ensure we continue to support students’ learning and emotional wellbeing during possible future crises, including pandemics.

During COVID-related restrictions in 2020, we conducted a survey-based study across Australia to find out what school psychologists and counsellors did during this time, the innovations they employed, and how they overcame the challenges associated with delivering services during COVID lockdowns.

This is what we found.

1. Online support to students, parents and teachers

Almost all support to students, parents and teachers during this time was provided using video-conferencing or telehealth.

Pivoting to online services gave psychologists and counsellors more opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, especially with allied health and other medical professionals.

Various online innovations were used to keep students connected, such as online activity clubs (Lego online, for example). To promote wellbeing, activities supporting mental health were offered, such as online mindfulness for groups of students.

School psychologists presented webinars to parents on child and parent wellbeing, and sent emails to discuss the welfare of both. Teachers were invited to complete wellbeing surveys, and school psychologists and counsellors used online check-ins to support them.

They offered teachers online activities to promote wellbeing and connectedness, such as a virtual wall to post positive stories, and virtual yoga.

Read more: The need for mental health education in Australian schools

Providing online services to students, parents and teachers meant psychologists needed access to the appropriate technology, school IT support, and professional development – the Australian Psychological Society (APS) regularly provides professional development in this area.

How they might engage younger children in online services was a training gap for many. The Parenting Research Centre (PRC) launched a tele-practice website that includes a range of evidence-based information and resources for …….


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