Telepsychiatry and how we came to it

”Telepsychiatry is the use of videoconferencing for the provision of mental health care. It primarily uses internet- based communication technologies to allow for interactivity, with offline options less frequent in clinical practice. In a broader context, the use of other media, such as e-mail, text messaging (SMS), telephone communication in real-time, and chat via web-based platforms, may also be understood as telepsychiatry”. [1]

Videoconferencing in psychiatry is not a new invention, although the vast majority of colleagues around the world discovered and began practicing it only during and due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent, well-known limitations in access to care.

 Historia est magistra vitae

Thus, the use of videoconferencing in psychiatry began in the late 1950s:

  • In 1959, the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute used TV technology of that time to provide remote group therapy, long-term therapy, psychiatry for consultation and liaison, and training of medical students at Nebraska State Hospital in Norfolk.
  • In 1969, Massachusetts General Hospital provided psychiatric counseling for adults and children at a health clinic at Logan International Airport. During the 1970s-80s, it became more common, extending to most diagnostic and therapeutic interactions.
  • By the 1990s, it had spread further around the world, particularly in Australia, and research had begun on its ability to facilitate access to care, overcome geographical barriers, and how it compares to personal care.
  • Since the 2000s, we have begun to consider telepsychiatry effective, but slightly different from personal care model, ie “face to face”. The first guidelines for telepsychiatry were published for the ATA (American Telemedicine Association). [2]
  • Somehow at the same time, telepsychiatry began its development in Europe, primarily in the Scandinavian countries known for their large and sparsely populated geographical areas. Of particular interest is the history of telepsychiatry in Denmark, which boasts by no means huge, sparsely populated areas. But the reasons for its development in this smallest Scandinavian country were special and, as such, deserve special attention, time and place in some of the following posts.


  1. Telepsychiatry Global Guidelines”. WPA, February 2021.
  2. Yellowlees, P., Shore, J., & Roberts, L. (2010). Practice guidelines for videoconferencing-based telemental health–October 2009. Telemedicine and e-Health, 16(10), 1074-1089.

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