Impact of videoconferencing group therapy in parents of seriously ill children

August 4, 2020
Miranda Hester

Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.

Technology can help improve access to care. A new report examines whether videoconferencing group therapy can help the parents of seriously ill children.

Telemedicine has become a buzzword during the COVID-19 pandemic and mobile therapy services have become a popular way for many people to get the mental health care they need. A report in JAMA Network Open looks into whether acceptance and commitment therapy–based group intervention via videoconferencing can be effective in lessening posttraumatic stress symptoms in parents who are caring for very ill children.1

The investigators ran a randomized clinical trial. The trial was a single-site study that was conducted in a tertiary pediatric hospital in Australia. The parents of children aged 0 to 18 years who had been admitted for a life-threatening illness or injury to the cardiology, pediatric intensive care unit, or oncology departments were eligible to be included. The parent was screened for eligibility in the first month after diagnosis or admission and was randomized to either the intervention group or the waited listed control group 4 to 10 months following diagnosis or admission. The intervention was a group therapy program called Take a Breath, a 6-session parent-mediated psychological intervention provided by online videoconference over 8 weeks. The control group were given treatment as normal and offered the intervention 3 months after being randomized.

There were 1232 assessed for eligibility and 313 who were randomized. One hundred sixty-one of the parents were randomized into the waiting list control group and 152 were allocated to the intervention group. The postintervention questionnaire was completed by 37 parents in the intervention group and 44 parents in the waiting list group. In this group, 32 parents were in the oncology group, 25 parents were in the pediatric intensive care unit group, and 24 were in the cardiology group. Overall, the intervention group showed significantly greater improvement in posttraumatic stress symptoms, with the average Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist–Version 5 scores decreasing from 23.3 to 17.8 in the intervention group and 31.7 to 26.2 in the waiting list control group.

The researchers concluded that using acceptance and commitment therapy can reduce posttraumatic stress symptoms in parents of very ill children. Additionally, the results indicate that the videoconferencing setup worked and can provide the therapy to hard-to-reach populations.

Reference

1. Muscara F, McCarthy M, Rayner M, et al. Effect of a videoconference-based online group intervention for traumatic stress in parents of children with life-threatening illness. JAMA Netw Open. 2020:3(7):e208507. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.8507