Mental Health Practitioners' Immediate Practical Response During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Observational Questionnaire Study.

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BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with increased psychological distress, signaling the need for increased mental health services in the context of stay-at-home policies.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to characterize how mental health practitioners have changed their practices during the pandemic. The authors hypothesize that mental health practitioners would increase tele-mental health services and that certain provider types would be better able to adapt to tele-mental health than others.

METHODS: The study surveyed 903 practitioners, primarily psychologists/doctoral-level (Psych/DL) providers, social workers/master's-level (SW/ML) providers, and neuropsychologists employed in academic medical centers or private practices. Differences among providers were examined using Bonferroni-adjusted chi-square tests and one-way Bonferroni-adjusted analyses of covariance.

RESULTS: The majority of the 903 mental health practitioners surveyed rapidly adjusted their practices, predominantly by shifting to tele-mental health appointments (n=729, 80.82%). Whereas 80.44% (n=625) were not using tele-mental health in December 2019, only 22.07% (n=188) were not by late March or early April 2020. Only 2.11% (n=19) reported no COVID-19-related practice adjustments. Two-thirds (596/888, 67.10%) reported providing additional therapeutic services specifically to treat COVID-19-related concerns. Neuropsychologists were less likely and Psych/DL providers and SW/ML providers were more likely than expected to transition to tele-mental health (P

CONCLUSIONS: The vast majority of mental health providers in this study made practice adjustments in response to COVID-19, predominantly by rapidly transitioning to tele-mental health services. Although the majority reported providing additional therapeutic services specifically to treat COVID-19-related concerns, only a small subset endorsed offering such services to medical providers. This has implications for future practical directions, as frontline workers may begin to seek mental health treatment related to the pandemic. Despite differences in tele-mental health uptake based on provider characteristics, the majority were interested in continuing to provide such services in the future. This may help to expand clinical services to those in need via tele-mental health beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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JMIR Ment Health







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