Telemental health for child trauma treatment during and post-COVID-19: limitations and considerations
Nicole Racine; Cailey Hartwick; Delphine Collin-V´ezina (et al.)
Published: August 2020
Journal: Child Abuse & Neglect
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented disruptions and stress in the lives of children and families internationally. Heightened family stress and turmoil can increase risk for, and exacerbate, child maltreatment. As a result, child maltreatment experts are concerned that there will be an influx of children requiring trauma assessment and treatment during and after COVID-19. As physical distancing measures have been implemented and will likely persist into 2021, organizations providing trauma treatment to children and their families have had to rapidly pivot to telemental health to maintain service delivery with clients. While the benefits of telemental health have been identified, including reduced barriers to access, increased cost effectiveness, and broad availability of services, there are unique limitations to its implementation within a child maltreatment population, such as challenges with attention and emotion regulation skills, difficulties identifying dissociative symptoms, and increased time with perpetrators of abuse due to shelter in place orders. These limitations are exacerbated for children and families who are most marginalized and facing the highest levels of social and economic barriers. Lack of access to reliable technology, lack of a private or confidential space for sessions, and reluctance to process trauma in the absence of a safe environment, are all barriers to conducting effective trauma treatment over telemental health. This article discusses both the benefits and barriers to telemental health in a child maltreatment population and offers considerations for child trauma service provision, program development, and policy during and post the COVID-19 pandemic.