Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe the special considerations for building rapport and establishing a therapeutic alliance when conducting mental health evaluations for children and adolescents via videoconferencing.
Methods: The authors review the literature and describe their experience in conducting mental health evaluations, developing rapport, and establishing a therapeutic alliance during telemental health practice.
Results: Clinical need and shortages of clinicians with expertise in evaluating mental conditions for children and adolescents in underserved communities have stimulated the rapid expansion of telemental health programs while the research base continues to develop. The emerging evidence base and clinical experience suggest that teleclinicians can, and do, build rapport and establish a therapeutic alliance during telemental health sessions with youth and families. Families may be more accepting of telemental health approaches than clinicians. The impact that technology, equipment, site staff, community supports, cultural identification, and teleclinicians' characteristics have on building rapport and establishing a therapeutic alliance should be considered when establishing a telemental health service. Staff at the patient site and referring providers have a valuable role in supporting the therapeutic alliance between telemental health providers and their patients, and ultimately supporting the success of a telemental health program.
Conclusions: Teleclinicians are creative in transcending the videoconferencing technology to evaluate patients using guideline-based care. Further research is needed to determine how clinicians build rapport and establish a therapeutic alliance during telemental health sessions, and whether the therapeutic alliance is associated with the accuracy of evaluation and outcomes.