Monday, March 04, 2013

Web Therapy for Problem Preschoolers: Advice For Parents From a Long-Distance Observer

Therapists typically use parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) to treat preschool ODD in a clinical setting, where the therapist observes behind a one-way mirror and coaches parents, via an earpiece, as they play with their child. But such therapy isn’t an option for families who live far from clinics. Children in those families are particularly likely to be prescribed medicine with unfortunate side effects. “What we’re seeing is skyrocketing rates of antipsychotic medications to treat aggression in young kids, in preschoolers even,” says Comer, a CAS research assistant professor of psychology, adding that such medications are associated with concerning metabolic, circulatory, and endocrine effects in young children. As a postdoc at Columbia University, Comer had been part of an innovative team that provided PCIT to military families at Fort Drum in Jefferson County, N.Y., near the Canadian border. Distance (more than five hours by car) and the lack of appropriately trained local clinicians made traditional therapy impossible, so doctors turned to technology. They gave each family a web camera, scheduled meeting times, and conducted telehealth sessions online. The technique worked so well that Comer wondered if it couldn’t trump therapy even in places where therapy was available. “I thought this might very well be advantageous anywhere,” he says. more

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