The purpose of this review was to investigate the short- and medium-term efficacy of counselling services provided remotely by telephone, video or internet, in managing mental health outcomes after a spinal cord injury. The authors conducted a search of electronic databases, critical reviews and published meta-analyses. Seven independent studies (N = 272 participants) met the inclusion criteria. The majority of these studies made use of telephone-based counselling, with limited research examining psychological interventions delivered by videoconferencing (N study = 1) or online (N study = 1). They found some evidence that telecounselling can substantially improve a patient’s management of common comorbidities following spinal cord injury, including pain and sleep difficulties (d = 0.45). Medium-term treatment effects were difficult to evaluate, with very few studies providing these data, although participants have reported gains in quality of life 12 months after treatment (d = 0.88). The main clinical advantages are time efficiency and consumer satisfaction.
The findings of this study draw attention to the need for additional evidence, randomized controlled trials in particular, to establish the benefits and clinical viability of telecounselling.