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Integration of Telepsychology during the COVID-19 Crisis in Australia

The purpose of critical analysis is evaluating a study to determine the strength and limitation regarding it and develop enhance understanding regarding the presented topic. The critical analysis of the article named “Ninja’levels of focus”: therapeutic holding environments and the affective atmospheres of telepsychology during the COVID-19 pandemic” by Downing et al. (2021) is to be discussed.

The objective of the article by Downing et al. (2021) is to make discussion regarding the intersection of the concepts of therapeutic holding spaces and containment of social psychology with more-than-human theory because it related to the mental health sector of Australia during the COVID-19 crisis. The article is a qualitative survey study which intends to gain in-depth information regarding people's opinion for the underlying motivation and reasons using telepsychology in holding sessions for mentally ill people during the COVID-19 pandemic. The argument in the study is geographically located in Australia as the study mainly interpret the social psychological concepts regarding telepsychology in the mental health sector of the country. However, historically the argument of the article mainly originates from discussion about COVID-19 detection first in Wuhan, China which has by far create monumental effect on the global health, economy and politics. It has then informed and followed how COVID19 situation like most countries affected Australia and led to create lockdown, physical distancing measures, closure of work, the mandate of work from home, limitation of travel and others.

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The study conceptually mentions how COVID-19 pandemic has created increased mental health problems among people in Australia, Moreover, the way COVID-19 in Australia has affected the mental health physicians to create treatment room and opportunity for their clients while ensuring the safety of the client from getting affected by COVID-19 during therapeutic sessions is mentioned conceptually. In undertaking the research, Downing et al. (2021) mention that rise of COVID-19 situation in Australia led the government to suddenly add telehealth psychology in the mental health field so that psychological consultations can occur through online between the psychologist, psychiatrist and patients. However, the problem raised is that many of the psychologists are found to be working solo in the mental health environment without any effective training or knowledge of performing psychological consultants through telehealth resources. It raised difficulties and confusion among them as they could not determine the way therapies are to be executed over online, determine their extent of effectiveness and others. In order to develop better understanding of the situation which is experiences of Australian psychologists in using telehealth in COVID-19 crisis, the researchers justified to have executed this study. They mentioned to have focussed on more-than-human theory and social psychological concepts of therapeutic containment and therapeutic holding spaces to move beyond the normal plethora of work.

The study used online qualitative survey method in collecting the data and in this context, 50 registered solo-practice psychologist present in Australia who are providing telehealth consulting to their patient during the COVID-19 pandemic is recruited in the study. The qualitative survey design is appropriate to be used in the study because it allows to gather information regarding general attitude, opinions and each of the words mentioned by the participants in describing the topic. This helps in developing detailed understanding of the data and formulate effective thinking to determine if the research hypothesis determined in incorrect or correct (Braun et al., 2020). The online execution of the survey helped in maintain social distancing and avoid any physical contact during the COVID-19 indicating all the precautionary measures were able to be followed while conducting the study during the pandemic situation as well as it allowed enhanced collection of determined data. Thus, the study method adopted is appropriate to be used in the study. The study was conducted from 1st July to 21st August 2020 that allowed to gather data from a span of time and determine if changes in opinions were made during the duration.

In the study, mainly three key findings are identified and one of it mentions that limited area of viewing of flat-screen create difficulty for therapist to respond and read the body language of the client during telehealth consultation and need them to how varied body language to show empathy toward the patients. The other findings are that most of the psychologist implemented different strategies in online consultation to ensure non-verbal cues from the clients are not missed and traditional safe therapeutic holdings paces can be subverted in their home environment on interruption and concern of safety from the client (Downing et al., 2021). The key findings led to the conclusion that online therapeutic holding space can be used as temporary and socially-build human-technological assemblage where different affective, relational, spatial and sense-making agencies coverage can be made along with closing or opening of capacities for therapist and their patients can be made (Downing et al., 2021).

The limitation of the study is that it used a small sample size due to which the results gathered cannot be generalised and the reliability of the study cannot be ensured. This is because a small sample size creates higher variability in the study that causes biasness to be raised and leads to error development in results (Sharma, 2017). The other limitation of the study is using a qualitative survey because survey of any form many lead the respondents to avoid providing honest answers due to lack of awareness of the reason for the survey (Schuster et al., 2018). In this study, no informed consent from the participants were mentioned to be taken due to which it cannot be ensured whether the participants were fully aware of the study.

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The strength of the study is that it provided overview of the challenges prevailing in the technology-focussed and biomedical paradigm in mental health field. Moreover, it provided information regarding telepsychology is to be reassessed as a more-than-human experience so that effective negotiation regarding its use can be made between the client and therapist to ensure enhanced and variable mental health service delivery to the patients. The weakness of the study is that it is performed in a single country that is Australia due to which the information cannot be generalised globally. The other weakness is that the study participants are too much limited which is evident as psychologist working outside the private practice were excluded due to which holistic impact of telepsychology use among al nature of professional psychologist in Australia cannot be interpreted.

References

Braun, V., Clarke, V., Boulton, E., Davey, L. and McEvoy, C., 2020. The online survey as a qualitative research tool. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, pp.1-14.

Downing, L., Marriott, H. and Lupton, D., “’Ninja’levels of focus”: therapeutic holding environments and the affective atmospheres of telepsychology during the COVID-19 pandemic. Centre for Social Research in Health and Social Policy Research Centre. pp.1-19.

Schuster, R., Pokorny, R., Berger, T., Topooco, N. and Laireiter, A.R., 2018. The advantages and disadvantages of online and blended therapy: survey study amongst licensed psychotherapists in Austria. Journal of medical Internet research, 20(12), p.e11007.

Sharma, G., 2017. Pros and cons of different sampling techniques. International journal of applied research, 3(7), pp.749-752.


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