Exploring the efficacy of Videoconference Psychotherapy

Exploring the efficacy of Videoconference Psychotherapy

Covid-19 has impacted people’s everyday life, including how people access mental health services. The increasing usage of digital platforms leads professionals and clients to consider the benefit in terms of costs, timing, physical distancing norms, self-isolation and clinicians/clients’ needs, especially for people who live in rural and isolated areas and struggle to easily access mental health facilities. Thus, with the current epidemic, there has been a global diffusion of Telehealth platforms.  This trend might change therapists and clients’ approaches towards traditional settings since technology is impacting and inspiring new way to deliver mental health support.

In this sense, what does research have to say about the efficacy of psychotherapy delivered by Video?

Although there has been a general scepticism around videoconference psychotherapy, there are many research findings that demonstrate its benefits. For example, a study[1] conducted on a sample of patients suffering from cognitive disabilities highlighted that people receiving videoconference psychotherapy treatment were generally satisfied. Another study[2] which investigated the impact of psychotherapy by video on young clients with diagnosed Obsessive Compulsory Disorders (OCD) has found that clients reported similar gratification, and same results have been confirmed in a research[3] conducted on people coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Nonetheless, some might argue about the obstacles in establishing the therapeutic alliance, which has been recognised as an imperative element for successful treatment. The therapeutic alliance refers to a grade of collaboration between psychologists and clients involving trust, expectations, responsibilities, rules, bonds, reliance, and duties. However, despite concerns that Telehealth platforms may pose obstacles for creating a positive therapeutic alliance, research has demonstrated positive outcomes in using Telehealth platforms from the clients’ perspectives. For instance, Glueckauf et al.[4] researched the therapeutic alliance in a study with 22 people affected by epilepsy. The results of this study highlighted a certain consistency of alliance, and the sample has also shown an important reduction of symptoms in terms of severity and incidence. Moreover, the therapeutic alliance has also been examined on people living in remote locations[5] and on veterans[6] too, similarly reporting positive outcomes for the use of digital platforms.

Overall, research shows us that there is a general client approval of using Telehealth platforms, and psychologists seem to be more open to this new and common way to deliver psychotherapy considering mutual benefits.

To start a successful experience of videoconferencing psychotherapy, here are some quick tips to make it work for you:

  • To be located in a safe environment where you feel comfortable to talk with your therapist. Sometimes, your house might not be the proper environment for having a Videoconferencing Psychotherapy and for this reason it would be important to find another place, which might also be your car (as long as you feel safe and have this opportunity). However, if you have any doubts, please, talk with your therapist: he/she will always be available to think with you about possible options;
  • To use Telehealth platforms which are HIPAA compliant (to protect sensitive information);
  • To have a good Wi-Fi connection;
  • To do your best to provide a good Audio and Video quality;
  • To have a good lighting;
  • To stop emails and messages notifications if you can. The therapy represents your personal space, don’t allow external intrusions to interrupt the flow of your emotions and communication;
  • To use your laptop/Pc taking advantage of the screen dimension. Use your smartphone, only, when you do not have other choices;
  • To not record the session. This is not generally accepted, but your therapist might propose or accept the record for therapeutic purposes only. However, it must be discussed with your therapist in advance;
  • To talk to your therapist if there is something during the session that makes you uncomfortable.

 

[1] Schopp, L, Johnstone B, and Merrell D. Telehealth and neuropsychological assessment: New opportunities for psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice; 2000. 31(2): p. 179

[2] Storch, EA, et al. Preliminary investigation of web-camera delivered cognitive-behavioral therapy for youth with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatry research; 2011. 189(3): p. 407-412

[3] Germain, V, et al. Assessment of the therapeutic alliance in face-to-face or videoconference treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking; 2010. 13(1): p. 29-35.

[4] Glueckauf, RL, Whitton, JD, & Nickelson, DW. Telehealth: The new frontier in rehabilitation and health care. In: Scherer MJ (Ed.), Assistive technology: Matching device and consumer for successful rehabilitation. American Psychological Association; 2002. p. 197–213

[5] Gray, MJ, et al. Provision of evidence-based therapies to rural survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault via telehealth: Treatment outcomes and clinical training benefits. Training and Education in Professional Psychology; 2015. 9(3): p. 235.

[6] Carpenter, AL., et al. Working from home: An initial pilot examination of videoconferencing-based cognitive behavioral therapy for anxious youth delivered to the home setting. Behavior therapy; 2018. 49(6): p. 917-930.