BEIRUT: Psychologists from Queen Mary University of London, American University of Beirut (AUB), Médecins du Monde, and Johns Hopkins University, have created a free online resource for mental health services now looking to deliver psychological therapy remotely to children amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, AUB announced Tuesday.
This service will draw “guidance on researchers’ experience adapting an existing psychological treatment to phone delivery for Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon, which they are currently investigating as part of a clinical research study,” according to the school.
Dr. Tania Bosqui, assistant professor in clinical psychology at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (AUB), said “the intervention was part of a research project to improve access to services for vulnerable children and adolescents (…) AUB was at the forefront of conducting assessments and interviews with children over the phone, and we have gained significant experience in what works.”
The school noted that therapists were able to continue delivering treatment despite the major shocks that hit Lebanon, including providing services continuously throughout the road closures in October and November last year.
This parallels the increasing use of phone and online mediums being used increasingly around the world for therapy and mental health treatment.
Dr. Michael Pluess, professor of psychology at Queen Mary, said: “Initially we had some reservations around how successful remote delivery of an existing treatment would be, however, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well the remote treatment program has worked so far with Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.”
Adding, “Whilst we’re still waiting for the complete results of our study, we’ve developed this guide to support the many practitioners that now need to deliver psychological treatment via phone or other remote technologies.”
According to Dr. Bosqui, it can take some time to get used to phone delivery, “however, clinicians, young people, and their parents usually start to feel comfortable using the phone once small adaptations have been made, and it can improve the ease of access considerably.”
While some existing psychological therapies have been specifically developed for phone delivery, most of the current mental health treatments for children have been designed for face-to-face and in-person delivery.
The therapy resource covers topics such as developing safety protocols and managing risk over the phone, adapting therapy to maintain child engagement, and tips to manage specific practical and treatment-related challenges that can arise during therapy, according to AUB.
Dr. Fiona McEwen, the postdoctoral researcher at Queen Mary, said: “Through the delivery of our research project, we’ve already learned a great deal in terms of what does and doesn’t work when it comes to delivering treatment remotely.”
AUB has not yet announced an inauguration date for the service.
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