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Telemental Health Background: Evidence of Efficacy

  • Telemental health provides effective intervention for various mental illnesses and offers providers flexibility for interventions. It is effective across the continuum of care for SMI and SUD, including: screening and assessment; treatments such as pharmacotherapy, medication management, and behavioral therapies; case management; recovery supports; and crisis services.
  • A meta-analysis of empirical research prior to 2013 showed favorable outcomes regarding “improved access, utilization, adherence, and notable cost benefits to behavioral health care delivered via telehealth” and also indicated that telemental health outcomes are comparable to those of in-person services.
  • Research based on telemental healthcare for veterans has shown that it is effective and improves access to care. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has found videoconferencing to be just as effective as in-person care for treating PTSD.
  • Systematic reviews have shown that telepsychology by video or phone for treating depression, anxiety and adjustment disorder, substance use, eating disorders, and other problems in children and adolescents is effective.
  • A randomized controlled trial of 325 individuals with major depressive disorder that evaluated the delivery of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) found similar outcomes for in-person vs. phone at the conclusion of treatment. During teletherapy the therapeutic relationship was not diminished and overall the therapy was slightly more effective due to lower drop-out rates.
  • Telemental health literature shows evidence for effectiveness in suicide prevention and reducing suicide risk.
  • Text-based telepsychology lacks research regarding efficacy and may hinder clinicians from fulfilling ethical and legal obligations such as correctly obtaining informed consent, completing assessments, and understanding a patients environment as well as who may have access to text based dialog.