Qualitative Evidence for the Implementation of Group Psychotherapy through Telehealth to treat Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Benjamin Landwersiek, BS

Boston Children’s Hospital
Qualitative Evidence for the Implementation of Group Psychotherapy through Telehealth to treat Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Scientific Abstract

Background: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant shift in the administration of psychiatric care. Although individual telepsychiatry has been proven to be an effective treatment modality, group virtual psychotherapy has largely been understudied, especially within the pediatric population. We interviewed adolescent females diagnosed with OCD who participated in a cognitive-behavioral (CBT) psychotherapy group that was performed in-person and/or virtually to obtain qualitative data on its advantages and disadvantages.

Methods: Eleven adolescent female patients aged 11-13 years diagnosed with OCD participated in in- person and/or virtual group CBT through Boston Children’s Psychiatry Department weekly from February to June 2020. After treatment ended, three of these patients were interviewed over the course of two months with questions regarding 1. their pre-existing OCD symptoms, 2. advantages/disadvantages of in-person group CBT, 3. advantages/disadvantages of virtual group CBT, and 4. the efficacy of each. Both patient and family input were welcomed.

Results: Advantages of group therapy, regardless of modality, aligned with present literature findings within all interviewed patients (normalizing symptoms, feeling less alone, making friendships, increasing ability to discuss condition and treatment). Advantages of virtual group CBT ranged from expected to unexpected (being more accessible for patients outside Boston and for patients with strict schedules, comfort through the anonymous nature of virtual activities). Disadvantages of virtual group CBT were present (difficulty reading social cues, less energy within the group, less physical activity-related exposure therapies); however, these disadvantages did not deter the patients from enjoying the virtual group therapy and each patient explained they would do it again if offered.

Conclusion: There are some areas of improvement to increase patient involvement within virtual group psychotherapy, but overall, the modality is qualitatively effective in patient satisfaction and fits practically within the modern & social implications of OCD.

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research Areas

Authors

Benjamin Landwersiek, BS, Rachel Conrad, MD, Stephanie Bousleiman, BS, Emma Cardeli, PhD

Principal Investigator

Rachel Conrad, MD