New review shows telehealth more effective for therapy delivery

New review shows telehealth more effective for therapy delivery

A new review and analysis has demonstrated that telehealth delivery of cognitive behavioural therapy is more effective than face-to face.

The review, carried out by McMaster University and conducted between 2003 and 2018 in the United States, Australia, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, revealed that cognitive behavioural therapy that connected therapists and patients through modes such as web-based applications, video conferencing, email and texting, improved patients’ symptoms better than face to face when measured using standardised mood symptoms scales. It also reported no difference in the level of satisfaction for patients in the two methods of delivery.

The systematic review and analysis based on randomised control trials can be found in EClinicalMedicine, published by The Lancet.

Telehealth for cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy is widely used to treat depression, but many patients can meet obstacles in receiving the therapy due to barriers such as resource availability, lengthy wait times, and geographical limitations.

Corresponding author Zena Samaan, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster and a psychiatrist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, said: “Although this study started before the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is timely and assuring that treatment delivered electronically works as well if not better than face to face and there is no compromise on the quality of care that patients are receiving during this stressful time.”

Samaan said the findings of the meta-analysis debunk widely-held perceptions about psychotherapy: “The common understanding was that face to face psychotherapy has the advantage of the connection with the therapist and this connection is in part what makes the difference in treatment.

“However, it is not surprising that electronic interventions are helpful in that they offer flexibility, privacy and no travel time, time off work, transport or parking costs. It makes sense that people access care, especially mental health care, when they need it from their own comfort space.

“Electronic options should be considered to be implemented for delivering therapy to patients. This can potentially vastly improve access for patients, especially those in rural or underserved areas, and during pandemics.”

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