The use of technology in the classroom is growing rapidly, with considerable advancement from year to year. School counselors have increased their use of technology to help students plan for and apply to college. As a School Psychologist my primary interactions with students, parents, and teachers are still face-to-face or over the telephone. Increasingly, communication with parents has occurred over email. Email consultation with teachers regarding student academic or behavioral interventions has also surged. But the newest technological advance within mental health in schools is running counseling groups in a virtual world.
During the current school year, counselors in my school district ran an 8-session social skills training program through a virtual world called InWorld Solutions. Students with disabilities and general education students who needed social skills improvement were excited to meet with counselors in the virtual world, represented by avatars. They were eager to learn to interact appropriately and have fun while gaining new skills in this new, virtual forum.
InWorld Solutions is a software program where participants create an online avatar to manipulate through a virtual world. InWorld Solutions is a HIPAA compliant program in that only participants who have written forms of consent and are invited to participate by the facilitator can access the program. This is a controlled virtual world to conduct therapy through role play, modeling, training, education, and simulation. Participants are able to speak in their own voices and hear the voices of the other participants. The program allows for sessions to be recorded and reviewed by participants so that they can learn through real-time interaction with others as well as watch interactions and react after-the-fact.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of TILT Magazine ~ Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology.
Click here to read the entire PDF version of the Social Skills Groups in the Virtual World article.
Erin Sappio, Ph.D, is a New Jersey Licensed Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist, working full time in a public school district in a suburb of New Jersey for the past 8 years.
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