Skip links

Laura Hesselman: "A live online treatment is so much more than a video call"

Laura Hesselman is a Live Online Therapist at Youz Online. She does this work 100% online, from a special location. Laura lives in Italy. "For me this is an ideal combination: practicing my profession as an Orthopedagogue and at the same time living in the country I love most." From her home office she gives several group and individual treatments every day. How her clients experience the live online treatments? And how she creates online interaction with clients and still stays connected to colleagues at such a great distance? We were curious. Laura explains it to us in detail in this interview.

How it began

"Youz Online puts a lot of effort into innovation. Keeping up with the times and staying in tune with young people and technology are high on the agenda. That attracted me tremendously. All treatments through Youz Online are live and online. So it's no problem that I live in Italy and work from here. As a Live Online Therapist at Youz Online, I now provide live online group treatments to parents, children and adolescents, for example on autism and ADHD. I also provide individual treatments, on topics such as mood, anxiety and self-image, among others."

Laura's work week

"My week starts on Monday morning. I get up, have a nice breakfast and enjoy the beautiful view I have here. Around 08:30 I go to my 'office'. I log on to my laptop, then first I catch up with colleagues about the weekend. Often the first treatments start at 09:00. Then a number of group treatments follow at fixed times. I give individual treatments in between. On Mondays I also give treatments in the evening. Therefore I am free during the day between 12:00 and 15:00. In the summer I often go for a sail and have lunch on the boat. When I'm done, I close up and wish my colleagues a nice evening. The past few weeks I quickly put on my bikini to go boating, swimming or paddling. That's a great way to get away from it all! That's great."

Benefits for clients

"Besides the fact that I myself really enjoy being able to work in this way, live online treatment also provides many benefits for the clients. A good example is the psycho-education I now give to young people with ADHD. In that group there is a participant who has a great urge to move. During our sessions he logs in on his cell phone and sits somewhere outside. If he then wants to get up or take a walk, he can do so with his phone in his hand. This doesn't make him less involved; on the contrary, it gives him the freedom to move around during the treatment group so that he can continue to concentrate. For him this is really a godsend. The same goes for parents. They can follow the treatment or session at home, so they don't have to arrange a babysitter. We also offer sessions in the evening, so parents can participate when the children are in bed. Live online treatment offers many possibilities, making it more feasible and accessible to participate."

Client experience with live online treatment

"In the beginning, clients often find it a bit exciting. That's why we always do an online intake beforehand to see if the right apps have been installed and if they can find their way around the digital platform. This takes away the initial uncertainty and tension. Pretty soon during a first session you notice that people pick it up well. The reactions at the end are often positive. Participants like the fact that they can exchange experiences with each other. The platform is clear, easy and accessible and clients and participants can find everything quickly. Once they have had a taste of it, most people are sold."

Endless opportunities for interaction

"To initiate interaction, for example, we use short videos to illustrate parts of the treatment. We sometimes use posters, quiz questions or statements. We make fun sheets on which you can tick whether or not you recognize a characteristic of autism or ADHD in yourself. Based on that, we can talk about examples: what does that look like for you? Clients can write texts themselves on the screen, tick or point at things. There are so many possibilities to get that interaction going. That just works really well!"

Staying connected with colleagues and clients

"Within the team we use Webex Meetings. We send messages to each other all day long, which makes it feel like everyone is very close. Once in a while we have an online 'coffee moment' with each other. Then we plan a moment in the diaries to drink coffee together or eat a sandwich. Everyone has consciously chosen to work 100% online. That also brings with it a certain mindset and commitment to make contact with each other in a different way - online. We will also be starting 'start-ups' soon. Those are coffee machine talks, between 08:30-09:00, for those who work and like to start up together."

"And that works! I said in a meeting the other day, "we here in the Netherlands...". Then I thought: what am I saying now? I am not in the Netherlands at all anymore. But that's how it feels! I found that a beautiful moment. We are well connected and everyone is easily accessible. That's how you really feel a bond with your colleagues."

Clients are truly themselves online

"Of course, there always remains a difference between live online contact and physical contact. Or running into someone spontaneously in the corridors. But I have noticed how well live online treatment has caught on. The interaction you have when you meet physically is also present online. At Youz Online, the training courses and treatments are presented in a very nice way, with the platform of Study2Go. You can show videos, draw, write along, in fact anything. Clients are really themselves in an online session. That is sometimes different when you have a physical appointment with a client. You notice that in the confidential home environment they relax more quickly, allow themselves to be vulnerable and give their opinion. I find that a great added value."

The live online treatment skills

"In the LOL Handler Training from Learning Connected, I learned that there really is a difference between a digital platform where you get to work live online, and giving a treatment via video call. It is so much more. The digital platform is a complete package where there are beautiful materials ready for clients to dive into the meeting. They can also view homework assignments, videos, articles, posters, the digital library, and much more. During a session, you have many opportunities to bring the material to life and create interaction with each other. During the LOL training you will learn how to use these possibilities optimally for a live online treatment or training. The training is accessible and logically structured. That makes it accessible to use and master what you have learned."

Just do it!

"My best advice for practitioners who provide live online sessions: you just have to go and do it! By 'doing' you experience how accessible it is to be able to treat online. You may still have doubts about security and/or privacy, but it sticks out. You may wonder: if you are in an online session and someone is sitting at home, how can you check if someone is safe and can talk freely? You can then, for example, put in headphones, agree on a code word, or send a message in the chat. There are all ways to do that. A final tip: Above all, have fun. The group treatments are a lot of fun, and you have the same interaction as if you were setting it up physically."

Looking to the future

"Youz Online is not standing still. One of the many developments is that we are getting bigger. We want to expand the team of live online therapists, because demand is increasing. More and more municipalities are knocking on our door for our services. In addition, there is a study underway led by Professor Robert Vermeiren into the effectiveness of live online treatment and psychoeducation. This has been accelerated by the corona crisis. We are still collecting data, but the initial results are very positive. In particular, we are seeing positive results for the psycho-education we provide. Parents and young people are very satisfied with the way we offer this and really learn something from it. I believe they give us an average of 8! Those results are very promising, and that stimulates us enormously."

Laura Hesselman is a Live Online Trainer at Youz Online.. She does all her treatments and work 100% online, from her home in Italy.