Effectiveness of youth psychotherapy delivered remotely: A meta-analysis

Effectiveness of youth psychotherapy delivered remotely: A meta-analysis

Venturo-Conerly, K. E. Fitzpatrick, O. M. Horn, R. L. Ugueto, A. M. Weisz, J. R.
American Psychologist
Reports on remote psychotherapies for youth (e.g., technology-based treatment) suggest it is acceptable, feasible, and useful in overcoming logistical barriers to treatment. But how effective is remote care? To find out, PsycINFO and PubMed were searched from 1960 through 2020, supplemented by journal searches and reference trails, to identify randomized controlled trials of youth psychotherapy for anxiety (including obsessive-compulsive disorder and trauma), depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or conduct problems, in which all therapeutic contact occurred remotely. Articles (N = 37) published from 1988 through 2020, reporting 43 treatment-control group comparisons, were identified. Robust variance estimation was used to account for effect size dependencies and to synthesize overall effects and test candidate moderators. Pooled effect size was .47 (95% confidence interval [CI: .26, .67], p < .001) at posttreatment, .44 (95% CI [.12, .76], p < .05) at follow-up-comparable to effects reported in meta-analyses of in-person youth psychotherapy. Effects were significantly (a) larger for remote psychotherapies supported by therapeutic provider contact (.64) than for those accessed by youths, with only logistical support (.22), (b) larger for treatments with phone contact (.65) than for those without (.25), (c) larger for treatment of anxiety (.62) and conduct problems (.78) than ADHD (-.03), and (d) smaller for therapies involving attention/working memory training (-.18) than for those without (.60). Among studies with therapeutic contact, effects were significantly larger when therapists facilitated skill-building (e.g., practicing exposures or problem solving [.68]) than when therapists did not (.18). These findings support the effectiveness of remote psychotherapies for youths, and they highlight moderators of treatment benefit that warrant attention in future research. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

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Type of intervention

Treatment and Child Welfare Interventions


Mental Health Problems and Disorders

Behavior Problems

Behavioral Disorders

Emotional Problems

Depression and Depressed Mood

Anxiety Problems

Anxiety and Anxiousness

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Trauma/ Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)



Psychological Treatments

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Therapy

Psychodynamic/Interpersonal Therapy

The organization of interventions

E-health interventions

Age group

Preschool Aged Children (3-5 years)

School Aged Children (6-12 years)

Adolescents (13-18 years)

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