New report: Remote therapy improves access to mental health support for young people

A rapid review of studies found evidence that the flexibility and anonymity associated with remote interventions can help young people who face barriers to face-to-face services

A new report on remote mental health interventions for young people argues that remote services can improve access and lead to positive mental health outcomes, but that replacing face-to-face services with remote support could pose problems. 

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The report analyses evidence from 50 research studies on remote mental health interventions carried out across 9 countries. Key findings include:

  • Remote forms of support can lead to positive outcomes amongst young people, including reductions in the severity of clinical symptoms, increased wellbeing, and lower levels of suicidality and stigma.
  • Remote interventions improved accessibility for those who struggle to access face-to-face services, such as young men, young carers, young people with disabilities, those living in remote locations and LGBTQ+ young people.
  • Many young people see remote support as more accessible than face-to-face services due to its flexible timing, shorter waiting times and no need to travel for appointments.
  • Young people report that remote services feel safer than in-person support, and present less of a risk of stigma and judgement.
  • Young people value the increased confidentiality and anonymity of remote services, and report that it helps them feel more in control of the therapeutic relationship.
  • Remote interventions are not suitable for all young people, and should not replace face-to-face services – but can be effective when offered alongside in-person support.

The report Remote mental health interventions for young people: a rapid review of the evidence was produced by the charity Youth Access, the national umbrella organisation for youth advice and counselling services, to support community mental health and wellbeing services with service design and delivery.

As services look to rebuild following the disruption of coronavirus lockdown, the report provides evidence to support the adoption of a blended offer of remote support alongside more traditional face-to-face interventions.

Dr Karen James, Research Officer at Youth Access and author of the report, said:

“Our findings show that remote interventions, when offered alongside face-to-face support, can help to build a service that is truly young person-centred, giving young people more choice and control over how, and how much, they want to engage, whilst making the service accessible to those who find it difficult to attend face-to- face support.”

Barry Williams, Interim CEO at Youth Access, said:

“The last few months have demonstrated how adaptable and innovative the youth advice and counselling sector can be, as services have quickly shifted to provide remote support to young people who need it. As we emerge from lockdown, we have a unique opportunity to build for the future, embedding this innovation to offer what young people have long been telling us that they need: a blended model of mental health support that provides remote interventions alongside face-to-face support. This report adds to the growing body of evidence that this is the right way forward.” 

Access the full report