Feasibility and initial outcomes of a group-based teletherapy psychiatric day program for adults with serious mental illness: Open, nonrandomized trial in the context of covid-19

Ajeng J. Puspitasari, Dagoberto Heredia, Brandon J. Coombes, Jennifer R. Geske, Melanie T. Gentry, Wendy R. Moore, Craig N. Sawchuk, Kathryn M. Schak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many behavioral health services have transitioned to teletherapy to continue delivering care for patients with mental illness. Studies that evaluate the outcome of this rapid teletherapy adoption and implementation are pertinent. Objective: This single-arm, nonrandomized pilot study aimed to assess the feasibility and initial patient-level outcomes of a psychiatric transitional day program that switched from an in-person group to a video teletherapy group during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Patients with transdiagnostic conditions who were at risk of psychiatric hospitalization were referred to the Adult Transitions Program (ATP) at a large academic medical center in the United States. ATP was a 3-week intensive outpatient program that implemented group teletherapy guided by cognitive and behavioral principles delivered daily for 3 hours per day. Feasibility was assessed via retention, attendance rate, and rate of securing aftercare appointments prior to ATP discharge. Patients completed standardized patient-reported outcome measures at admission and discharge to assess the effectiveness of the program for improving quality of mental health, depression, anxiety, and suicide risk. Results: Patients (N=76) started the program between March and August of 2020. Feasibility was established, with 70 of the 76 patients (92%) completing the program and a mean attendance of 14.43 days (SD 1.22); also, 71 patients (95%) scheduled at least one behavioral health aftercare service prior to ATP discharge. All patient-level reported outcomes demonstrated significant improvements in depression (95% CI -3.6 to -6.2; Cohen d=0.77; P<.001), anxiety (95% CI -3.0 to -4.9; Cohen d=0.74; P<.001), overall suicide risk (95% CI -0.5 to -0.1; Cohen d=0.41; P=.02), wish to live (95% CI 0.3 to 1.0; Cohen d=0.39; P<.001), wish to die (95% CI -0.2 to -1.4; Cohen d=0.52; P=.01), and overall mental health (95% CI 1.5 to 4.5; Cohen d=0.39; P<.001) from admission to discharge. Conclusions: Rapid adoption and implementation of a group-based teletherapy day program for adults at risk of psychiatric hospitalization appeared to be feasible and effective. Patients demonstrated high completion and attendance rates and reported significant improvements in psychosocial outcomes. Larger trials should be conducted to further evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of the program through randomized controlled trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere25542
JournalJMIR Mental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Behavioral science
  • COVID-19
  • Effective
  • Feasibility
  • Implementation
  • Intensive outpatient
  • Mental health
  • Outcome
  • Pilot
  • Serious mental illness
  • Telehealth
  • Telemedicine
  • Teletherapy
  • Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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