Does the research justify the use of video for delivering counselling? Is it clinically effective? Excellent questions!
I would like to direct your attention to an excellent review of the literature. This review written in 2009 builds on a previous review written in 2003, consolidates the information available up to 2008 and suggests future research avenues.
The review discusses an exponential increase in articles from 1970 – 2008. “From an initial review of 68 peer-reviewed journal articles in the period 1970–2000, there were 63 new published reports three years later and 148 new publications from April 2003 to July 2008”. A quick search of http://clinicaltrials.gov/ indicates over 340 studies are currently underway or have recently been completed. And I bet that’s not all!
Richardson et. al. (2009) point out that the bulk of the published reports on videocounselling are case studies, novel clinical applications, program descriptions/evaluations and assessment studies with a “handful” of randomized, controlled studies. Videocounselling was used with rural and remote populations, children and adolescents, older adults, veterans, deployed personnel, cancer patients and incarcerated patients.
What types of results were reported in Richardson et. al. (2009)?
“Outcome findings…include high patient satisfaction, moderate to high clinician satisfaction, and positive clinical outcomes, albeit typically in the form of qualitative anecdotal evidence…”
“…several studies suggest that patients rate the strength and quality of the therapeutic alliance similarly in face-to-face versus videoconference service delivery regardless of intervention.”
“…[any perceived ‘artificiality’ of transmission] does not significantly disrupt patient satisfaction, accuracy of assessments, reliability of evaluations, or clinical outcomes for patients in a number of settings”
Now here’s an interesting finding…
“In contrast to typically positive patient ratings of satisfaction associated with the use of tele-mental health services, clinicians have often reported lower expectations regarding the value of tele-mental health..”
Their overall conclusions?
Richardson, et. al. (2009) conclude “The clinical effectiveness of tele-mental health interventions in children, nonelderly adults, and elderly adults has been demonstrated via case studies, program evaluations, and some controlled trials. To date, however, there are few controlled efficacy and effectiveness studies…”
They see videocounselling as promising and note that its use is likely to become ‘routine’. Though they also point out the lack of clinical trials and states the research around the efficacy of videocounselling is “underdeveloped”.
Fast forward to 2012….
Currently, there are a number of studies in progress using randomized controlled equivalence trials [I just like saying those words] for treating PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and smoking cessation [to name a few].
A recent article states “Videoconferencing has been successfully used to treat, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, obsessive–compulsive disorder, anxiety in cancer patients, and depression in adolescents and children. Randomized controlled trials have found that videoconferencing treatment is as effective as in-person treatment for childhood depression (see article for reference citations)”.
Sounds like significant “development” with more to come.
Dawn Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca
 Richardson, L. K., Christopher Frueh, B., Grubaugh, A. L., Egede, L. and Elhai, J. D. (2009), Current Directions in Videoconferencing Tele-Mental Health Research. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 16: 323–338.
 Yuen, E. K, Goetter, E. M,, Herbert, J, & Forman, E. M. (2012) Challenges and Opportunities in Internet-Mediated Telemental Health. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol. 43, 1, 1-8.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA