Telephone and Videoconferencing Technologies

Telephone and videoconferencing technologies are used frequently in behavioral intervention research to deliver interventions such as individual counseling, peer support/ support groups, family support, education, and reminders. Use of these technologies as a mechanism for treatment delivery can offset some of the inconveniences and costs associated with traveling to an interventionist or vice versa. This may also help to reduce participant attrition (Mohr et al., 2012; Mohr, Vella, Hart, Heckman, & Simon,

  • 2008) . In fact, studies within the mental health arena have shown that behavioral interventions delivered via telephone or videoconferencing can be as effective as face- to-face therapy sessions for the treatment of depression (Khatri, Marziali, Tchernikov, & Shepherd, 2014), obsessive-compulsive disorder (Himle et al., 2006; Vogel et al., 2012), posttraumatic stress disorder (Germain, Marchand, Bouchard, Drouin, & Guay,
  • 2009) , and mood and anxiety disorders (Stubbings, Rees, Roberts, & Kane, 2013).

Telephone and videoconferencing technologies have also been found to be an effective format for intervention delivery for other targeted behaviors and populations. In our videophone study with minority family caregivers (Czaja et al., 2013), we conducted individual skill-building sessions and support group sessions via phone/ video. We also included a library of short video clips by experts on topics related to caregiving, as well as a resource guide and an information and tips feature (see Figure 7.1). The interventionists also used the phone to send reminder messages to the caregivers. As noted, the intervention was efficacious with respect to caregiver outcomes and the caregivers found the support group sessions to be particularly valuable. A recent systematic review of telephone interventions for physical activity and dietary behavior change (Eakin, Lawler, Vandelanotte, & Owen, 2007) concluded that there is a solid evidence base supporting the efficacy of physical activity and dietary behavior change interventions in which the telephone is the primary method of intervention delivery. Videoconferencing-based interventions have also been shown to be effective within this domain. For example, the (“Virtual Small Groups for an Innovative and Technological Approach to Healthy Lifestyle”; Azar et al., 2015) demonstrated that a 12-week group weight-loss intervention program (based on the Diabetes Prevention Program) delivered via Web-based videoconferencing resulted in significant weight loss among overweight men.

Study participants also typically have positive perceptions of telephone- and videoconference-based interventions. In a study examining the effects of videoconferencing on the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Himle et al. (2006) found an overall clinical improvement in the participants’ symptoms and high ratings of treatment satisfaction and therapeutic alliance. “The participants quickly accommodated to the videoconferencing environment and uniformly reported high levels of ‘telepresence’ resulting in a feeling that they were ‘in the room’ with the

Videophone system. (A) Screen for main menu. (B) Screen for English version

Figure 7.1 Videophone system. (A) Screen for main menu. (B) Screen for English version: sample of quick solutions for common problems. (C) Screen for Spanish version: sample of quick solutions for common problems.

Source: Czaja et al. (2013).

therapist” (p. 1827). Himle and colleagues (2006) had anticipated that the participants might be reluctant to express deep emotion owing to feeling self-conscious in an isolated environment (i.e., alone in a room with a technological device rather than a real live person), but their results found that this was generally not the case. Communicating via the telephone offers a certain degree of anonymity that is not possible in face-to-face interactions. In our work, we have also found high levels of willingness of our participants to engage in discussions with interventionists and with other caregivers in support groups. However, we have also found that it is important for the interventionists to display satisfaction with this format of intervention delivery, and the technology system must be easy to use.

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