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There is a current escalating need for telehealth (TH) options in family mental health services. In the absence of replicated evidence, TH guidelines from peak bodies are largely based on assumptions of the effectiveness of TH methods. New investments in TH would optimally be based in evidence of clinical efficacy. To this end, we conducted three studies in which we (1) systematically reviewed eight professional guidelines for TH family therapy, (2) examined replicated evidence for the efficacy of TH family therapy through systematic review of 20 studies and meta-analyses of 13 effects, and (3) synthesised clinical accommodations to TH methodology from a study of 12 experienced TH family therapists. The studies found (1) a predominant focus in existing TH guidelines on operational matters pertaining to TH and relative neglect of therapeutic process; (2) meta-analyses of efficacy for child behavioural problems (k = 8) and parental depression (k = 5) showed equivalent outcomes in TH and face-to-face therapy and enhanced outcomes in TH relative to treatment as usual, resource provision (i.e. written materials), or wait-list control. Narrative review of 20 studies for a range of relational and mental health outcomes aligned with these findings; and (3) therapists defined clear conditions for enhanced engagement and therapeutic process via TH and reflected on cautions and accommodations for purposes of rapport building and mitigating risk. Given moderate-strong evidence for the efficacy of TH methods of family therapy for a range of conditions, we offer recommendations for future implementation of TH for family therapy.


Siân A McLean, Anna T Booth, Alexandra Schnabel, Bradley J Wright, Felicity L Painter, Jennifer E McIntosh. Exploring the Efficacy of Telehealth for Family Therapy Through Systematic, Meta-analytic, and Qualitative Evidence. Clinical child and family psychology review. 2021 Jun;24(2):244-266

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PMID: 33492545

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