While face-to-face therapy is uniquely beneficial, Program Director and Assistant Professor of Social Work Amanda Jones collaborated with the Tammy Lynn Center (TLC) to create a way to deliver psychoeducation and play therapy to children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through interactive virtual playrooms, children can learn mindfulness techniques, coping skills, and build their emotional vocabulary.
Each semester, students taking Meredith’s Introduction to Social Work course are required to complete 20 hours of service-learning. Typically, these students go out into the community and work directly with various populations. However, Jones had to develop a way for students to complete their service hours without putting already vulnerable communities at risk for COVID-19. One of the licensed social workers Jones supervises provides outpatient therapy services to children, most of whom are not neurotypical. These children needed engaging virtual services during the pandemic, but many therapists did not have the time to compile online therapeutic resources. Luckily, Jones had an idea and a plethora of SWK-100 students who each had 20 hours that needed to be filled serving the community.
Jones created a virtual therapy office where play therapy sessions could be conducted. Not only does the room have therapeutic value, but it is also visually appealing and filled with hyperlinks to various online therapy activities. Some of these activities include nature sound videos, mindfulness games, breathing exercises, and even a virtual sand tray that children can use to explain their emotions and events that occurred in their lives. The SWK-100 students were tasked with creating their own virtual playrooms.
Each room contained a video of a book being read in a calming voice along with several activities supporting the content of the book. At the center of each room was a Bitmoji version of the student to add to the room’s friendly atmosphere. Students would search for therapeutic tools that could be found online, design a playroom filled with images that children would find visually engaging, then hyperlink these images so that when clicked on, the online resources could be accessed by the child and therapist. Most of the items Jones and her students put in their virtual playrooms were online activities that other creators engineered, but some of the resources were created by Jones herself, such as a virtual board game that prompts children to think about coping strategies and emotion regulation.
The Bitmoji Playrooms created by Jones and her SWK-100 students gave many children access to outpatient therapy services during the COVID-19 pandemic. It provided an opportunity for SWK-100 students to complete their service-learning requirements. In a time when social work and education services must be adapted to online platforms, Jones found a fun, creative way to serve her community while also providing a unique educational opportunity for her students.
Jones gave a presentation about the virtual playrooms to 393 attendees at the National Association of Social Workers NC Fall conference in 2020.