How can we support young people who can’t or don’t want to access remote therapy? 

There are many barriers to receiving remote support for young people during lockdown, many of which have been highlighted in recent case studies from Youth Access members. Some young people don’t feel comfortable receiving support remotely, fear that its inferior to face-to-face, or face language or accessibility barriers. Others may not have the technology needed to access support this way, or have limited or no internet connection and phone signal. Some young people aren’t able to be supported confidentially due to a lack of private space in their home, “difficult or dangerous home environments, or family members/housemates who don’t know they’re receiving support. It may also be difficult for a young person to discuss their concerns freely if their home circumstances are part of the problem.  

Where digital or telephone contact isn’t possible with young people already receiving therapeutic support, the BACP recommends bringing the sessions “safely to a close or temporary break until face-to-face sessions can resume.” For young people due to begin support, or who approach you while face-to-face sessions are still not possible, communicating with them about their options and preparing them for a potentially longer wait before sessions can begin is crucial. 

Although situations like these understandably bring frustration and concern, they don’t have to mean support for the young people affected stops altogether. Youth Access members have shown incredible resilience, innovation and adaptability when regular, full-session telephone and online support isn't possible. We have pulled together some of the tools and practices used by members and other organisations to reach young people in alternative ways, listed below, and encourage you to read the inspiring case studies from our membership during this time.

Walk and talk  

Some Youth Access members have spoken about combining sessions with socially-distanced walks with young people. One staff member from Berwick Youth Project has used weekly Walk and Talks to great effect with one young person who was not leaving her house, and rarely leaving her bedroom. This has been combined with weekly challenges for the young person to encourage her to leave her room 

“The young person was excited to leave the house, to have time away from everyone, and 'be able to breathe’. She engaged exceptionally well and throughout the session she made several references to how nice it was to see flowers, to watch the river flow and to feel comfortable again. At the end of the session she asked when she could do it again because she really enjoyed 'being free'.” - Debra, Berwick Youth Project.


Several members have spoken about their use of regular ‘check-ins’ with young people, with a brief call or message, centred on their wellbeing or just to catch up. Where this is not possible or the young person does not feel comfortable, these can be used to check in with parents/guardians where appropriate.  

These can also be helpful for those who are accessing remote therapeutic support, as a way of holding a young client emotionally between sessions 

“We have achieved a way of remaining in contact with a large proportion of the young people who use our service, not only in counselling, but in the wider offer. Young people get regular texts and phone calls asking simply 'how are you'. They may not respond, but we feel it is important that they know they are on our radar. We hope this means that young people feel less alone and know that they have someone to turn to.” - Emma Wilkinson, The Warren of Hull - Read more

Share information 

  • Many members have been sharing information and signposting to known and trusted organisations, apps, videos and forums which support young people’s mental health and wellbeing. This can be done in a variety of ways, based on young people’s needs, including social media channels, check-ins, emails and any other available means. If telephone or digital contact is not at all possible, consider printing and posting/delivering this information where possible. Two Youth Access members have spoken about including information in existing deliveries to young people’s homes, for example in gardening kits and food parcels, and one member has advertised their support on postcards around the community.  
  • Several members have created ‘hub’ spaces on their websites in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, where they share a range of resources and information to support young people at this time. 
  • As mentioned earlier in this toolkit, organisations are advised to give clear information to young people about who they can contact in an emergency when they are experiencing worsening mental health or crisis, or when they are at increased risk. Again, it’s important here to make clear that you cannot provide emergency or 24/7 support.  
  • The Early Intervention Foundation further suggests supplying hard copy workbooks and other materials, such as CDs, to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing in a way that doesn’t require internet. 

Use social media and video platforms creatively 

Youth Access members have been using social media in a whole host of ways to provide regular, holistic support to young people. This can be a useful tool to maintain connection and support for those with non-digital barriers to remote therapy. As well as providing platforms for sharing information widely and staying in touch with your community, social media can be used to host live group sessions, share videos, host campaigns and much more. As always, make sure you’re using these platforms safely and securely. Some of the things members have used social media for include: 

See other innovative ways to engage young people through these platforms at Digital Youth Work. You may also want to consider using a platform like Meetupcall, which allows young people to join a group call without using their minutes.

Other support offered by Youth Access members 

  • One member has delivered about 200 seed kits, made up of compost, seeds, instructions and pots, with young people during lockdown, so they can grow their own plants. The kits also including information about the organisation and mental health tips, such as how to look after yourself and your community during the lockdown, and young people have started to post their progress on social media.
  • Another Youth Access member has set up a food parcel delivery service, in response to unemployment and financial hardship during lockdown, delivering to 1250 people. These parcels also contain toiletries, condoms, sexual health advice and sanitary wear
  • The same Youth Access member has also set up a pen pal service.
  • Some Youth Access members have created ‘drop-in’ spaces, on the phone and online, “to give a broader offer in addition to regular counselling.  

Read more stories from Youth Access members on how they have adapted their services