This randomized field experiment compared the effectiveness of telepsychiatry and in-person psychiatric sessions (treatment as usual) among 71 parolees receiving outpatient psychiatric treatment over a six-month period.
Many offenders treated for psychiatric disorders while incarcerated are paroled to counties where psychiatric care is limited, leading some correctional departments to offer psychiatric treatment via videoconferencing ("telepsychiatry"); however, the effectiveness of telepsychiatry for offenders with psychiatric disorders has not been rigorously evaluated. The current study measured satisfaction with treatment, therapeutic alliance, medication adherence, and psychological functioning. Follow-up data were collected from 60 of the 71 (85 percent) patients (N=20, telepsychiatry; N=40, control condition). Findings revealed high satisfaction with telepsychiatry overall and no significant group differences in medication adherence or psychological functioning; however, telepsychiatry patients reported lower levels of therapeutic alliance at follow-up. Thus, telepsychiatry was apparently an acceptable and effective approach for providing psychiatric care for this population. (Publisher abstract modified)