COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative: Research

Examining the Use of Virtual Care Interventions to Provide Trauma-Focused Treatment to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Populations

Key Messages

  • The provision of online psychological therapies for reducing psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from domestic violence or sexual assault are effective.
  • When compared with face-to-face treatment interventions, trauma-focused virtual care interventions had similar outcome measures for mental health distress.
  • Provision of services virtual care interventions is also associated with a number of perceived challenges regarding the relationship between providers and clients, confidentiality, and patient safety, and technological barriers.
  • Virtual care interventions for this population is most effective when used to supplement or facilitate (rather than replace) in-person professional trauma-focused care.
  • Stakeholder interviews conducted in Alberta highlighted several barriers for virtual care for at-risk populations experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault during a pandemic. These include the practitioners’ inability to assess safety in the clients’ environment; challenges in making connection with new clients in virtual settings; and the loss of human connection in virtual settings that is vital in healing trauma.


  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Virtual care
  • E-mental health
  • Trauma-focused treatment
  • Mental health


  • Nominated Principal Applicant: Dr. Stephanie Montesanti
  • Dr. Peter Silverstone, MD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Alberta
  • Prof. Lana Wells, Brenda Stafford Chair, Prevention of Domestic Violence, Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary
  • Ms. Winta Ghidei, MPH, PhD Student, Project Manager, School of Public Health, University of Alberta

For more information, please contact: Dr. Stephanie Montesanti,

Related Syntheses


(External links)

Full PDF

Lay Summary PDF


Vulnerable or At-Risk Populations, Children, Youth and Families


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