At the beginning of the pandemic, interventions in health, education and social care moved online almost overnight and, in some cases, ceased altogether. Many mental health services accessed by children and their parents, such as child development clinics and children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) had shifted from in-person to online.

In response to Covid-19, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) funded a research project into the effectiveness and guidance for in-person versus online intervention sessions.

Led by Professor Nicola Yuill, Professor of Developmental Psychology, a team of experts at the University of Sussex set out to look at the quality and experience of online interventions compared to in-person therapy.

The aim of the research was to find out:

  • how practitioners had adapted to online therapy and assessment
  • if online communication was as effective as in-person
  • what barriers people had faced, and
  • what lessons can be learnt.

From July to December last year, the research team compared videos of in-person and online interventions, as well as carrying out an online survey and interviews with more than 70 mental health, physical health, education and social care practitioners.

Professor Nicola Yuill, said:

“Our findings show that practitioners have skilfully adapted their communication from in-person to online and an online meeting can be as well-attuned as an in-person one. In fact, there is a real opportunity here to provide an additional method of intervention when client and practitioner agree it is in the client’s best interests.

“But, in order for these online interventions to be effective, we need to make sure that everyone has the right tools and capacities in place. Our research shows that meeting online will only work if families have access to the right equipment, such as faster affordable broadband. Practitioners need more time and support to prepare, carry out and reflect on these online meetings, and local authorities and the NHS must work together to manage challenges such as the information governance involved in meeting vulnerable people online.”

The research team are holding an event on 6 May 2021 (11am-1pm) to present the findings of the research and guidelines.

The event is aimed at practitioners and managers who work in health, education and social care.

For further information and to book your free place on: Online or in-person therapy: research-informed guidelines for communication event please click here.